Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mid-week updates from around the NFL

Heading into Week 17, I hope you're not vying for a cham-pionship (which should always be played in Week 16 -- no exceptions!). As you know, I'm an advocate of the Free for All Bowl (see Monday's post), so hopefully that's why you're still reading.

FYI, I'll be writing my Perfect Draft: Final Cut and 2009 Biro's Heroes & Zeros Awards columns in the next week or so, so don't tune out completely just yet.

As you know, lots of top players on the best teams (Colts, Chargers, Packers, Cardinals, Saints, Bengals) will see little or no action this weekend, though the Pats are hinting they'll play for the duration. Some of Week 17's top performers, therefore, are likely to be backups to some of your top studs. Guys like Donald Brown, Darren Sproles, Larry Johnson, Mike Bell, Brandon Jackson, Austin Collie, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Floyd, Andre Caldwell and James Jones, to name a few, could come up big. It's not a bad time to go waiver-wire shopping.

Meanwhile, the Panthers could be without their top QB, RB and WR this week. Delhomme is already on IR (and one could argue that he's no longer their top QB anyway), DeAngelo is still being held out of practice with his bum knee, and Steve Smith is out with a broken arm. Should be more fun for Jonathan Stewart's owners, as well as Muhsin Muhammad against a vulnerable Saints secondary.

Looks like another game-time decision for Steven Jackson and Michael Turner.

The New York Daily News speculates that Gartrell Johnson will see a lot of action in the Giants' backfield this Sunday now that Brandon Jacobs has been officially ruled out and Ahmad Bradshaw is still not 100%. That said, the G-men are facing the tough Vikings run defense, and nobody knows which Giants team is likely to show up for this one.

Johnny Knox is iffy for Sunday's game, so look for another nice outing from Devin Aromashodu against the Lions' toothless secondary.

This week's kicker for the Falcons will be former Raven Steven Hauschka, for what that's worth.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Week 16 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots – Broke out of his mini-slump with 267 passing yards and 4 TDs.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears – Finally produced for the one guy still starting him, with 273 yards, 4 TDs and but 1 INT.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles – Passed for 322 yards and 3 TDs, with 1 INT, while adding 29 rushing yards.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons – Threw for 250 yards and 3 scores against what had been a stout Bills pass defense.

Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers – Totaled 61 combined yards with 3 TDs against the Titans.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings – After a slow start, finished with 92 rushing yards and 2 TDs, plus 3 receptions for 43 yards.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans – Raced for 142 yards and a score, and caught 3 passes for 37 yards.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers – Took advantage of DeAngelo Williams’ absence, running for a team record 206 yards plus a TD.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers – Ran for 71 yards and a TD, and added 4 catches for 81 yards.
Ryan Grant, RB, Packers – Rumbled for 97 yards and 2 TDs.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers – Scored twice while running for 59 yards.
Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns – Didn’t break any records, but 148 yards and a TD is a fine showing from anyone in Cleveland.

Randy Moss, WR, Patriots – Only caught 4 passes for 45 yards, but 3 of his catches went for TDs.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons – Blitzed the Bills with 8 catches for 139 yards and 2 TDs.
Wes Welker, WR, Patriots – Another PPR dream, with 13 catches for 138 yards.

Todd Heap, TE, Ravens – Scored on both his receptions, which covered 37 yards.
Brent Celek, TE, Eagles – Amassed 121 yards and a TD with his 4 receptions.

This was a great week to play against…

Peyton Manning, QB, Colts – Yanked in the 3rd quarter with just 192 passing yards and 0 TDs.
Vince Young, QB, Titans – Threw for only 89 yards without a passing TD, plus 2 INTs, though he ran for 40 yards and a score.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks – Picked off 4 times for the second straight week, while passing for just 198 yards and a single TD.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints – Any time he’s held to 258 yards and 1 TD, it’s a great week to play him.

Steven Jackson, RB, Rams – A last-second inactive that caught many owners by surprise.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants – His 6 carries netted 1 whopping yard.
Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots – Got only 22 rushing yards before fumbling and disappearing from the crowded RB rotation.
Fred Jackson, RB, Bills – Held to 39 rushing and 14 receiving yards by a soft Falcons defense.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills – His 3 carries yielded 3 yards, and he added a 13-yard catch.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles – With Brian Westbrook back in the mix, ran for just 27 yards and caught one 39-yard pass.
Quinton Ganther, RB, Redskins – Ran for 13 yards and caught one 16-yard pass.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars – Caught 2 passes for 19 yards.
Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs – Limited to 3 catches for 34 yards.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts – Managed just 3 catches for 33 yards in little more than a half of work against the great Darrelle Revis.
Donald Driver, WR, Packers – Held to identical stats in a full game.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets – Grounded by the Colts with just 2 catches for 18 yards.
Donnie Avery, WR, Rams – Just 2 receptions for 24 yards.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons – Caught 2 balls for a measly 17 yards before leaving with an injury.

I didn’t see that coming…

Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers – Scored twice as a runner and once as a receiver, while racking up 39 combined yards in a rout.
Lex Hilliard, RB, Dolphins – Also scored both ways, while rushing for 12 yards and catching 9 passes for 74 more.

Jabar Gaffney, WR, Broncos – Caught 7 passes for 69 yards and a pair of TDs.
Devin Aromashodu, WR, Bears – Hauled in 7 passes for 150 yards and the game-winning TD in overtime.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Week 16 column: No excuses for title-game blunders

I don’t get it.

How does someone who labored so hard for four months to get their fantasy team to the championship game then snooze through Sunday afternoon as the Rams announce that Steven Jackson would be inactive?

This happened in two of my leagues’ title contests, where Jackson was locked in early as a starter and wasn’t replaced prior to the late kickoff. Sure, it was a modest surprise given Jackson’s reputation for playing through pain. But we knew he had been missing practice throughout the week due to a lingering back injury, so wouldn’t it make sense to check in prior to kickoff to make certain he was active?

I’m sorry, but that’s a cardinal sin in fantasy football. You deserve the goose egg, and the loss, if you made such a boneheaded blunder.

Those who opted to start Peyton Manning could be forgiven, however, if only because so much uncertainty swirled around his expected playing time prior to the game. I advised benching Reggie Wayne and Manning in Friday’s Starters & Benchwarmers column, but I realize those were tough decisions to make, especially if your other options weren’t terribly exciting. At least you were warned.

On a related note, get ready for more of the same if your league inexplicably wages its championship bout in Week 17. (Suggestion for 2010: Don’t.) With nothing to play for, Colts starters will undoubtedly hit the showers after a drive or two. Expect similar non-production from most Chargers and Saints starters, and possibly even the Patriots, Bengals, Cardinals and Vikings.

That’s why I highly recommend a more enjoyable way to wrap up the fantasy season: The Free-for-All Bowl.

It’s simple. Everyone – including those who sat out the postseason – sets one final starting lineup. The top overall score wins five percent of the pot. (For non-money leagues, I suppose you could play for pride. Winning, in this case, would be much like hitting a perfect drive off the 18th tee after a lousy round of golf. It fuels hope for future success.)

We’ve played the Free-for-All Bowl in a couple of my leagues for as long as I can remember, because it’s a great way to keep everyone engaged while extracting one more competitive week out of the fantasy season. And I think we can all agree that’s a worthy objective.

If you can talk your fellow owners into staging a Free-for-All Bowl next weekend, I urge you to give it a try. Otherwise, be sure to get it on the schedule next season.


Hopefully you’ve already played, and won, your league’s championship. If you still have something on the line in Week 17 – ideally not a title matchup – there’s not much available on the waiver wire to help you. But here are some marginal free agent recommendations anyway, along with several who would look better in someone else’s lineup.

Catch 'em while you can

Donald Brown, RB, Colts. Apart from a short TD plunge, the rookie didn’t show much against a tough Jets defense in relief of Joseph Addai. But Brown flashed his talent earlier in the season, and he’ll likely get the majority of the carries next week against the NFL’s worst rush defense. Surprisingly, Addai’s understudy is available in roughly 40 percent of fantasy leagues.

Mike Bell, RB, Saints. If Pierre Thomas’ rib injury is serious enough to ground him for the finale, Bell and Reggie Bush will see a spike in carries. Bell is a tough short-yardage rusher who could rack up a TD plunge or two for those desperate for a healthy body.

Muhsin Muhammad, WR, Panthers. Now that Steve Smith is out for the duration with a broken arm, Muhammad is the last viable receiver standing in Carolina’s passing game. Though the Saints will be looking to halt their late-season skid, Matt Moore has been surprisingly effective since becoming the Panthers’ starting quarterback. He even connected with Muhammad for the receiver’s first score of the season on Sunday.

Don’t be fooled

Curtis Painter, QB, Colts. Don’t think he’ll simply step into a high-octane offense and start racking up Manning-like statistics. The rookie should get plenty of playing time next Sunday, but Indy is likely to lean on its running game in this one. Besides, prior to Sunday’s debacle against the Falcons, Buffalo’s pass defense had been among the league’s best.

Kenneth Darby, RB, Rams. Whether or not Steven Jackson plays next weekend, his backup offers little value in a matchup with the 49ers’ tough run defense.

Jabar Gaffney, WR, Broncos. He took advantage of the opportunities presented by Eddie Royal’s neck injury and Brandon Stokley’s early ejection, with seven receptions for 69 yards and a pair of TDs. But with both wideouts likely to return next week, even a favorable matchup with the Chiefs isn’t enough to justify a pickup.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Week 16 Sunday morning updates

Greetings, Fools, on this lovely Championship Sunday. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Now it's time to win us a title!

As always, track my tweets (@ladd_biro) for inactives and other late-breaking developments.

Note that the Colts signed a 3rd QB from their practice squad this week (Drew Willy), which is a sure indication that Manning & Co. aren't expected to play the whole game. I predict one half for Peyton, Reggie, Addai, Clark, most of the starting OL and key defenders. Keep that in mind if you're relying on those guys. I wouldn't be surprised to see Peyton drive them down the field 2-3 times and cash in for TDs, which isn't all bad. So the TDs may be there, but not much in the way of yardage.

But hear this: Peyton told ESPN that he would expect to be in the game in the 4th quarter if the game was still on the line. Interesting... That would make me feel a little better about starting him. Either he puts up big #s and leaves early, or he plays most of the game. Either way, that's probably good news.

DeAngelo is doubtful and will not play, according to He made the trip to NY with the team, but apparently he's not feeling up to it. Could be another big game for J-Stew.

Fred Taylor will suit up for the Pats against his old team (Jags). That's interesting, but not from a fantasy perspective, except for the impact on the other RBs' carries. Not good news for Laurence Maroney owners, as he could be sharing with Freddy, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk. Yuck.

Antonio Bryant (groin) will play against New Orleans today and, as I said in my Starters & Benchwarmers column, I really like his chances.

Larry Fitzgerald (knee) is fine also and will play.

OK, the inactives have started coming out. So far, nobody significant is sitting out for the Pats, Packers, Chiefs, Bengals, Giants, Browns or Jags.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Week 16 Starters & Benchwarmers

You don’t need me advising you to start Drew Brees and Chris Johnson, or to bench Keith Null and Ted Ginn. So I’ll leave the obvious recommendations to the network bozos and focus instead on players typically on the bubble of most fantasy lineups. Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 16.

Watch ‘em roll

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings at Bears. His widely anticipated late-season swoon is in full swing. Look for at least a temporary reprieve under the Monday night lights against a Bears secondary that he torched for 392 yards and 3 TDs just four weeks ago.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns vs. Raiders. He’s not likely to break more records this week, but there’s every reason to believe he’ll put up gaudy numbers against one of the NFL’s rushing doormats. A 100-yard, 2-TD outing is well within reach.

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals vs. Rams. Why recommend him two weeks running? Because too many of you didn’t believe me last week when I told you his time had come. Trust me, he’ll keep the good times rolling Sunday while Tim Hightower fades further into the background. Only the Raiders have allowed more rushing TDs than the Rams.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets at Colts. Coming off his best game of the season, Edwards should continue to prosper against a secondary that has played poorly lately and will probably be resting its starters early. New York still has playoff aspirations, so you know they’ll fight to the final buzzer.

Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers at Saints. One thing seems certain: Tampa Bay will be forced to the air early and often as it desperately attempts to keep pace with the Saints. That could lead to plenty of mistakes by rookie Josh Freeman, but also a lot of targets for Bryant against New Orleans’ vulnerable secondary.

More thumbs up: QBs Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, Alex Smith, Matt Schaub; RBs Cedric Benson, Pierre Thomas, Frank Gore, Jamaal Charles; WRs Greg Jennings, Vincent Jackson, Percy Harvin, Santana Moss.

Roll ‘em back

Peyton Manning, QB, Colts vs. Jets. If I thought he would play the entire game, I wouldn’t worry so much about his matchup against the NFL’s toughest pass defense. Put the two together, and even the great Peyton is a risky start.

Quinton Ganther, RB, Redskins vs. Cowboys. He came back down to Earth last week against the Giants, salvaging an otherwise terrible outing with a late touchdown run. Expect more of the same against Dallas’ tough run defense, but without the garbage time heroics.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Vikings. Don’t even think about it.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions at 49ers. Sorry Megatron, but I just don’t have a good feeling about Drew Stanton against Mike Singletary’s defense. This game has shut-out written all over it, and Johnson will be fortunate to see more than a handful of catchable balls.

Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts vs. Jets. The only thing worse than being blanketed by Darrelle Revis all day is getting just two quarters to try to beat him. Manning is risky enough, but at least he can target other receivers. Wayne won’t have that luxury.

More thumbs down: QBs Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Matt Hasselbeck; RBs Joseph Addai, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Morris, Julius Jones, Knowshon Moreno, Arian Foster; WRs Terrell Owens, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Roy Williams, Hines Ward.


Justin Snelling, RB, Falcons vs. Bills. For some reason, Atlanta is pushing Michael Turner to play Sunday, despite aggravating his high ankle sprain last week for the second time. With nothing to play for, that’s just ridiculous. Snelling should get the bulk of the workload against the absolute worst rush defense in the NFL. Even if Turner or Jerious Norwood poach some carries, there should be enough left over for Snelling to reward those owners brave enough to gamble on him.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…gets so caught up with all the merriment that he fails to notice the NFL scheduled a game for Friday night. That’s right, the Chargers face the Titans on Christmas night, so make sure you set your lineup before you set out the cookies for Santa.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Week 16 mid-week updates from around the NFL

First off, I just noticed the latest quirk in the NFL schedule, in which there's no Thursday night game, but there's one on Friday night. Am I the only one who didn't know that? Oh well...silly me. San Diego visits Tennessee on Christmas. Make sure Rivers, V-Jax, Gates and Chris Johnson and either kicker are locked in your starting lineup. LT is a maybe.

Potentially HUGE news for owners of Kurt Warner: The Elias Sports Bureau, the ultimate arbiter of these types of things, ruled that Warner's 5-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin at the end of Sunday's game was not, in fact, a pass, but a Boldin run. If you are the commish of your league, you have an obligation to alert anyone affected by this. Hopefully it won't alter the outcome of a playoff matchup; but if it does, then you need to do the right thing. Unless you're the guy with Warner, and nobody else in your league reads this blog. I'm just saying...

Spare QBs are dropping like flies this week. Fortunately, I doubt the season-ending injuries to Brady Quinn, Trent Edwards and Marc Bulger will have any direct impact on teams competing for fantasy championships. However, the fact that Derek Anderson (Browns), Brian Brohm (Bills) and either Keith Null or Kyle Boller (Rams) will be quarterbacking their respective teams should give you great pause if you were counting on any of their receivers.

Drew Stanton will get the start for the Lions, which can't be good news for Megatron's owners either.

For reasons I cannot explain, the Falcons are preparing as if Michael Turner will start again this week. Since they're already eliminated from postseason contention, this makes no sense. Don't take the bait. We've seen how this plays out before. Twice.

A whole slew of players missed or were limited in practice today. We'll see which ones sit again on Thursday. That will be more telling about their prospects for the weekend. DeAngelo Williams is one we'll be watching closely.

Percy Harvin appears to be back at 100% in practice so far this week and should be a great play against the Bears Monday night.

The Colts are hoping RB Donald Brown, WR Anthony Gonzalez and K Adam Vinatieri will be back for their Week 16 game. Though I wouldn't recommend any this weekend, they could be sneaky plays in leagues where something's on the line in Week 17, as the Colts starters sit out most/all of the final tilt.

(An aside about Week 17. In two of my leagues, we play a "Free for All Bowl" the weekend following our championship game just to keep things interesting. We set aside 5% of the pot, and everyone (even those who didn't make the playoffs) sets their best starting lineup. Highest overall score wins. It keeps hope alive for those who don't win much/any money in the postseason, and it extends the fantasy season an additional week. And that's ALWAYS a good thing! Try'll like it.

Garrett Hartley owners will be relieved to know the Saints have finally cut ties with John Carney. Don't be surprised if Carney finds his way on another roster soon, though. I'm thinking he might now be a Cowboy if he was available a couple days earlier. And if Suisham misses on Sunday, Carney could be wearing the star next week.

I doubt you were relying on 49ers K Joe Nedney; but if you were, note that he'll miss Week 16 with a bad hammy. Someone named Ricky Schmitt will kick for San Fran.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Week 15 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers – Posted a career-high (and near-NFL record) 503 yards and 3 TDs, without a turnover.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers – Kept pace with Big Ben by passing for 383 yards and accounting for 4 TDs of his own, without turning the ball over.
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts – Played till the final buzzer and torched the Jags for 308 yards and 4 TDs, with but one INT.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens – Tossed 4 TDs while generating 234 passing yards and no turnovers.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns – Eclipsed Jim Brown’s team record with 286 rushing yards and 3 TDs. Too bad nobody started him.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers – Took advantage of DeAngelo Williams’ early exit by combining for 123 yards and 2 TDs.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs – Kept his second-half sprint rolling with 154 rushing yards and a TD, plus 2 catches for 16 yards.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars – Rushed for 110 yards and 1 TD, and added 5 receptions for 30 yards and another TD.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants – Ran for 61 yards and 2 TDs, and added 3 catches for 29 yards.
Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys – Helped shock the Saints with 62 tough rushing yards and 2 TD runs, plus an 11-yard reception.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers – Scored twice while hauling in 5 passes for 108 yards.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers – Hauled in 9 passes for 157 yards and a TD.
Andre Johnson, WR, Texans – Didn’t reach the end zone, but 9 catches for 196 yards is still mighty impressive.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles – Scored on an uncharacteristically short 19-yard pass, and finished with 6 receptions for 140 yards.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts – Reeled in 5 passes for 132 yards and the game-clinching TD.
Smilin’ Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys – Hauled in 7 catches for 139 yards and a monster TD to foretell the upset.

Dallas Clark, TE, Colts -- His 7 catches generated 95 yards and 2 TDs.
Todd Heap, TE, Ravens – Scored twice while gaining 56 yards on 5 receptions.

Browns defense/special teams – Soared with Josh Cribbs’ dual 100-yard kickoff returns.

This was a great week to play against…

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots – Passed for a measly 115 yards and just 1 TD (plus an INT).
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears – Continued his awful season with just 94 passing yards, 0 TDs and a trio of INTs.
Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos – A modest 278 yards and 1 TD against a mediocre Raiders squad.
Brett Favre, QB, Vikings – Held to 224 yards and 1 INT, without a score.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks – Picked off 4 times while passing for 256 yards and a single TD, and lost a fumble.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints – Held to 298 passing yards and a single TD, plus 1 INT.

Michael Turner, RB, Falcons – Aggravated his sprained ankle after one 7-yard carry and wasn’t seen again.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers – Also left early after gaining just 13 rushing and 3 receiving yards.
Arian Foster, RB, Texans – Last week’s free-agent hope fumbled early and was limited to 20 combined yards.
Kevin Faulk, RB, Patriots – Ran once for 7 yards and caught a 3-yard pass.
Chris Jennings, RB, Browns – A bystander for Harrison’s theatrics, gaining just 18 yards on the day.
Reggie Bush, RB, Saints – Left the game with a pulled hammy after just 29 rushing and 17 receiving yards.
Thomas Jones, RB, Jets – Held to a mediocre 52 rushing yards.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts – In a high-scoring, seesaw game, ran for a modest 59 yards and caught 3 short passes for 14 yards.
Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals – Limited to 53 rushing and 19 receiving yards.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears – Posted another lackluster outing, with just 69 rushing yards on the day, while losing one of his two fumbles.

Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys – An bystander in his team’s upset with just one 14-yard catch.
Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings – Played despite migraines, but only had a 10-yard catch to show for it.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts – Left the game with early with a minor injury, leaving his owners with just 2 catches for 16 yards.
Terrell Owens, WR, Bills – Limited to 2 receptions for 20 yards.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions – Managed only 3 catches for 35 yards.
Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers – Same for him.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons – Got the Darrelle Revis treatment, pulling in just 4 passes for 33 yards.
Wes Welker, WR, Patriots – Caught a shockingly low 4 passes for 40 yards.

Jay Feely, K, Jets – Botched all three of his field goal attempts.

I didn’t see that coming…

Matt Moore, QB, Panthers – His 299-yard, 3-TD, 0-INT outing led to the Vikings’ shocking upset on Sunday night.

Michael Bush, RB, Raiders – Relieved the injured Justin Fargas and rushed for 133 yards and 1 TD.
Maurice Morris, RB, Lions – Amassed 126 rushing yards, a TD and 5 catches for 35 yards in his first start for the injured Kevin Smith.

Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers – He’s had nice outings before, but we didn’t expect 79 yards and 2 TDs on his only 2 receptions of the day, against the NFL’s third-ranked pass defense, no less.
Justin Gage, WR, Titans – Another non-starter who scored on his only two receptions, which totaled 43 yards.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Week 15 column: Redemption is sweet for several fantasy stars

This weekend we were reminded that timing can be everything in fantasy football, particularly when it comes to single-elimination playoffs.

Last week, as most leagues kicked off their postseason tournaments, Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers delivered their worst statistical performances of the season, while Ben Roethlisberger put up a stinker against the Browns. I know I wasn’t the only owner sunk by Warner’s debacle last Monday night, and countless others were doomed by Rodgers’ and Big Ben’s ill-timed swoons.

Randy Moss fumbled his only reception of last week’s game and sulked the rest of the way. Warner’s troubles contributed to meager outings by both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Reggie Wayne was a dud.

What a difference a week can make. (Just ask Wade Phillips.) Those who managed to advance to the second round despite disastrous performances from key players (or a serendipitous bye), were treated to some world-class rebounds from last week’s goats.

Big Ben pelted the Packers’ third-ranked pass defense for a career-high (and near-NFL record) 503 yards and three TDs. Rodgers nearly matched him point-for-point, passing for 383 yards and combining for four scores of his own. Amazingly, neither gunslinger turned the ball over.

Warner’s rebound wasn’t nearly as dramatic, but his 233-yard, 2-TD, 1-INT effort against the Lions would have made the difference for many of us a week earlier.

Meanwhile, Moss, Fitzgerald, Boldin and Wayne proved that you can’t keep an elite wideout down for long, and you’re playing with fire if you bench them after a disappointing effort.

Those vying for championships next week should keep that in mind before chasing points from this weekend’s shooting stars. Career-bests from the likes of Joe Flacco, Maurice Morris and Mike Wallace are unlikely to be approached again this season.

Don’t out-think yourself when it’s all-or-nothing time. Saddle up your horses and prepare to ride them all the way to the winner’s circle. If they come up lame, well, there’s always next year.


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. Filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. At this stage of the game, however, the pickings are slim. Hopefully your team is strong enough that you don’t need to juggle your lineup for Championship Week.

Catch 'em while you can

Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns. I recommended him in this space two weeks ago as a solid bet to produce in tasty matchups with the Chiefs and Raiders in Weeks 15 and 16. Little did I know he would leap ahead of Jim Brown in Cleveland’s storied record book with a 286-yard, 3-TD shellacking of Kansas City. If he’s still available (and he is in roughly 90 percent of leagues), you’ll love what he does against Oakland next weekend.

Don’t be fooled

Michael Bush, RB, Raiders. He took advantage of an unexpected opportunity when Justin Fargas injured his knee early against the Broncos, rushing for 133 yards and a score on 18 carries. But Fargas could be back in the lineup next week, and Darren McFadden (74 yards on 12 carries) is still in the mix as well. There’s too much risk associated with this three-headed monster to pin your title hopes on them.

Michael Turner, RB, Falcons. Some people never learn. Once again, Turner returned too early from his ankle injury and proceeded to aggravate the sprain after a single carry. Now that Atlanta is out of playoff contention, Turner is unlikely to suit up again this season. And even if he does, well, you should know better.

Josh Cribbs, WR, Browns. With all due respect to Harrison, Cribbs is the most explosive weapon in the Browns’ arsenal. But he’s the ultimate boom or bust fantasy player. If he doesn’t deliver as a kick returner, he’ll likely leave you with next to nothing due to his limited offensive touches. His two kickoff return scores on Sunday doubled his touchdown production as a receiver for the season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday morning updates for Week 15

As a lifelong Dolphins fan who sat in the stands as a kid throughout the 1972 Perfect Season, I was very pleased to see the Cowboys knock off the Saints last night. Okay, Indy; it's your turn. Better rest Peyton & Co. for the last couple of weeks. Don't want them getting injured on your Super Bowl run...

Here are a few updates before the inactive lists start coming out. As always, look for my tweets on those and other late-breaking developments.

Vince Young will most likely play today.

Stafford out, Culpepper in for Lions.

In something of a surprise, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner are both expected to return to the starting lineup for the Falcons today. Though I'm not high on either of them, Ryan's return does make me feel a little more optimistic about Roddy White's chances. But he'll be matched up with Darrelle Revis, so he's still a risky start.

As expected, Steven Jackson is expected to start as usual.

T.O. has missed practice due to illness this week, but he'll suit up and play as normal.

Percy Harvin is expected to play in tonight's game, but nothing is official and anything can happen between now and then. There's some risk associated with starting him (due to the late game), but he's probably fine. Sidney Rice, who's also been slowed by an illness, is also expected to play.

Larry Fitzgerald is a go.

Ochocinco should start for EVERY team today. There's zero chance he won't score and pay tribute to his friend, the late Chris Henry.

Devin Hester will likely sit out today's game, and last week's shooting star, Devin Aromashodu, will take his place in the starting lineup. Still don't like his chances.

Both Brent Celek and Kellen Winslow should be good to go.

As warned earlier this week, Neil Rackers won't play in Detroit. Mike Nugent takes his place.

And last, a fellow fantasy guru has joined the fight against Fidelity for firing its fantasy football-playing managers. He saw my blog, shared my outrage, and decided to do something about it. Check out the Facebook page he created:

Become a fan, and spread the word. Let's make life tough on Fidelity until they do the right thing and re-hire the "Fidelity Four."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday updates from around the NFL

Heading into the Saturday night showdown, Jeremy Shockey is inactive, along with John Carney. That means David Thomas will man the TE position, while Garrett Hartley, who's been nursing a sore hip, will be kicking.

Mike Bell is active and Lance Moore, surprisingly, will return to action tonight as well. No telling how many snaps, or targets, he'll get. I doubt many.

Cowboys backup TE Martellus Bennett will miss another game due to a concussion, but DeMarcus Ware will play after a very quick turnaround from his scary sprained neck injury last week. That's good news for the Cowboys DST, but I still don't like their chances against Drew Brees & Co.

The AP is reporting that Justin Forsett and Julius Jones will alternate series in Seattle's game vs. Tampa Bay. For those hoping for big things out of Forsett, this is somewhat encouraging news, since an equal split is better than he's been getting. Against the Bucs, that could be enough to produce decent -- though not spectacular -- numbers.

Steven Jackson is dealing with the flu and a sore back, but I'm guessing he'll still line up and give us his all on Sunday. That said, don't be surprised if he has another sub-par outing. The guy's a warrior, but it appears his body is breaking down with all the wear and tear the Rams have put on him.

Looks like Larry Fitzgerald, Sidney Rice and Calvin Johnson will be fine tomorrow, and Percy Harvin's chances are improving as well. Still some risk associated with the latter, though.

In a fairly interesting development, Reggie Brown will start over Jason Avant for the Eagles while Jeremy Maclin sits. Not sure where that came from, but Brown has been a disappointment for years, and Avant is unstartable as a No. 3 WR.

The East Coast is getting some serious snow today, so it will be interesting to see how the elements affect the various games being played outdoors there. Normally snow is not a huge problem for veteran QBs, and it can actually help WRs because they know where they're going (as opposed to the DBs who often loose their footing trying to keep up). Winds are a bigger issue, so we'll keep an eye on that for you tomorrow a.m. Biggest beneficiaries of inclement weather, of course, are the workhorse RBs.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More info on the Fidelity fantasy football firings

As those who read Wednesday's blog post know, Fidelity Investments touched off a firestorm recently with news that they fired four staffers for playing fantasy football in the office. All four were fairly junior employees and commissioners of their leagues. Not fired was at least one higher-up in the same office, or the thousands of other Fidelity employees doing the exact same thing in offices around the country.

I've done a little sleuthing and have uncovered the name and email address of the GM at Fidelity's Westlake branch, which is where the fired employees were based. I've just emailed Tom Herrick ( a polite, yet direct message and let him know that I would continue to lambaste Fidelity from my fantasy guru perch until they rehire these guys, for this unreasonable and capricious application of an alleged "no tolerance" policy.

Check out my cameo in FOX News' report from last night here:,-four-fired

Again I ask...why did they only fire the commissioners? Surely they know that where there's a commish, there are 7-15 other players engaged in the same dastardly conduct. What about the manager who was playing in one of those leagues who apparently got off scott free? Talk about a lawsuit waiting to happen!

What about the senior execs at Fidelity corporate who play? I guarantee you at least a small amount of their time at work is spent engaged in fantasy talk or other activity. Why aren't their heads rolling? Hey...fair is fair. No tolerance means no tolerance.

(By the way, the firings were ordered by Corporate, not the local branch. But I have reason to believe it didn't have to go down that way if Mr. Herrick hadn't let it.)

And by the way, as a friend said to me yesterday, where would Fidelity be if every company had a strict policy against "gambling" in the workplace? You think stock trading isn't gambling? My buddy said he made $4K in his Fidelity account yesterday simply by selling RIM stock after it spiked $10. How many millions of times per day is that repeated across the country?

Methinks Fidelity needs to take a serious look at the way they enforce this policy.

Please join me in writing Mr. Herrick today. Let him know what you think of the way Fidelity handled this situation. Hey...if you have an account with them (I don't), they have plenty of competition. I highly recommend eTrade.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Week 15 Starters & Benchwarmers

You don’t need me advising you to start Adrian Peterson and Andre Johnson, or to bench Kellen Clemens and Marty Booker. So I’ll leave the obvious recommendations to the network bozos and focus instead on players typically on the bubble of most fantasy lineups. Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 15.

Watch ‘em roll

Jason Campbell, QB, Redskins vs. Giants. With 820 yards, eight total TDs and 3 INTs over the last three games, Campbell has quietly been producing stellar fantasy numbers. Meanwhile, the Giants have coughed up 23 passing TDs this season, and nearly 300 yards per game over the last four weeks.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos vs. Raiders. Not only will he be facing a team he torched in Week 3 for 90 yards and a TD, but he’ll likely be doing so without competition from the injured Correll Buckhalter. Quinton Ganther just added two more rushing TDs to Oakland’s league-high 20. Imagine what Moreno will do to them.

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals at Lions. You’ve held onto him all year for just this moment. The rookie is coming off a dominating performance against a solid 49ers defense and is heading toward one of the NFL’s true softies. Wells has 28 carries to Tim Hightower’s eight over the last two weeks – a trend that should continue Sunday.

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers at Steelers. He’s had a disappointing season, and he dropped a catchable ball in the end zone last week. But Aaron Rodgers is due for a big game against Pittsburgh’s vulnerable secondary that will be playing without Troy Polamalu, so look for a nice outing from both Packers wideouts in this one.

TJ Houshmandzadeh, WR, Seahawks vs. Buccaneers. With Nate Burleson already ruled out of this contest, Housh should see significantly more targets against a secondary that averages just under two passing TDs allowed per game.

More thumbs up: QBs Matt Schaub, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Hasselbeck; RBs Ray Rice, Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones, Laurence Maroney, Jamaal Charles; WRs Smilin’ Miles Austin, Robert Meachem, Pierre Garcon, Mike Sims-Walker, Derrick Mason, Davone Bess.

Roll ‘em back

Eli Manning, QB, Giants at Redskins. Think twice before inserting the red-hot passer into your starting lineup against a defense that’s giving up just one passing TD per game. Eli probably won’t ruin you (ala Kurt Warner last Monday night), but he’s unlikely to keep pace with the big boys this weekend.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers vs. Packers. If you managed to survive last week despite his dreadful performance against the Browns, don’t risk another meltdown against the Pack on Sunday. It’s nice to know he’s added third-down responsibilities to his repertoire, but Green Bay’s second-ranked run defense is playing with purpose down the stretch. You sure can’t say that about the Steelers these days.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers vs. Vikings. It’s hard to bench your top draft pick, especially during the postseason. But consider that Carolina just lost its second starting tackle, and they’ll be facing one of the NFL’s stingiest run defenses (just three rushing TDs allowed all season). Much like the last two weeks, Williams could be a big disappointment at the worst possible time.

Roddy White, WR, Falcons at Jets. Regardless who lines up at QB this week, he won’t look White’s way often due to the imposing presence of shut-down corner Darrelle Revis. There’s no worse matchup for a No. 1 wideout than the Jets’ top-ranked pass defense, and Revis is the ultimate eraser of fantasy points.

Steve Smith, WR, Panthers vs. Vikings. With Matt Moore under center, the aforementioned offensive line problems and a stout Vikings secondary blanketing his every move, the odds are stacked against Smith on Sunday night. Carolina will be lucky to put up 10 points in this mismatch.

More thumbs down: QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Matt Cassel; RBs Matt Forte, Marion Barber, Fred Jackson, LeSean McCoy, LT, Cadillac Williams, Jason Snelling; WRs Donnie Avery, Johnny Knox, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne, Chris Chambers, all Raiders.


Arian Foster, RB, Texans at Rams. Just like last week’s flier, Quinton Ganther, Foster offers little more than a sparse resume, a starting assignment and an ultra-favorable matchup. And just like Ganther, he could contribute significantly to a playoff victory – he, too, is a decent receiver – especially if Chris Brown’s and Ryan Moats’ touches are minimized. The undrafted rookie comes with a measure of risk, to be sure; but only Oakland has surrendered more rushing scores than St. Louis. That’s a risk worth taking.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…gets himself fired for playing fantasy football at the office. If you haven’t seen yesterday's post, Fidelity Investments recently axed four managers in a Dallas-area branch for that heinous activity. I’ve taken up their cause on the airwaves and via this blog, and I invite you to join me in expressing your displeasure with Fidelity’s unreasonable actions. Meanwhile, beware overzealous corporate party-poopers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Give Fidelity a piece of your mind!

I was asked by FOX-4 in Dallas to appear on air tonight for a story about four managers from Fidelity Investments who were fired this week for playing fantasy football at the office. Apparently this was in violation of a company-wide no-tolerance policy on gambling.

You can read the story as first reported in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram here:

As you might imagine, I find this to be a ridiculous and capricious application of an otherwise sensible rule (e.g., no gambling on company time). First, fantasy football is not regarded as gambling by most reasonable people, or by the law. Even the No Fun League, which originally resisted the fantasy wave, has determined that most traditional fantasy leagues are operated for purposes of entertainment rather than as gaming enterprises. There are no betting lines, no bookies, and, in the vast majority of leagues, no high stakes. In the case of the Fidelity league, the guys put up a whopping $20, for crying out loud.

(Just it OK with Fidelity if their employees play in one of the zillions of free leagues? I assume so. But, for heaven's sake, don't put your lunch money at risk. That's a fireable offense! After all, what would our clients think if we were to gamble with our own money when they expect us to spend our time gambling with theirs?)

Thanks to the good folks at Yahoo! Sports for referencing this legal definition of betting and wagering from Cornell Law School's web site. See and refer to Section (1)(E)(ix), which states that betting and wagering does not include fantasy sports -- at least the way the vast majority of us play them. In addition, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 declared that fantasy sports are not forms of gambling.

Hmm...might Fidelity's action be illegal? Unless their policy specifically prohibits playing fantasy sports, then according to federal law, those guys weren't gambling and therefore did not violate the rules. I'm no lawyer, but I loved Boston Legal. Methinks Alan Shore, or even mad-cow-infested Denny Crane, would rip these guys a new one with a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Second, I could make a very convincing case that fantasy football is a positive addition to the workplace (in all but the most extreme circumstances). It builds camaraderie -- much like a company softball team -- but everyone can play, regardless of physical limitations or disabilities. It builds relationships between co-workers outside the office walls. It fosters a healthy competitive instinct (which some people don't get if they missed out on playing team sports as a kid), that can be translated into company (e.g., team) loyalty. And, by the way, it's fun. Fun = happier employees, right?

Last, if Fidelity is serious about enforcing this policy (and by all accounts, they are), then they'd better not stop the inquisition at these four. Take it all the way to the top, baby. I guaran-dam-tee you that if the CEO isn't a fantasy enthusiast, the CFO or the Chief Information Officer or head of HR is. Let's see their heads roll, too. If there's no tolerance, then there's no tolerance.

I'd love to see what happens when the crusading party-poopers at Fidelity realize that 30% of the men, and 5% of the women, throughout their North American operations are fantasy football players! Go them all!

And don't tell me they aren't playing on company time. EVERYBODY who plays fantasy football does SOMETHING on company time. Even if they manage to keep it off the computer (Fidelity is one of many firms that block access to fantasy sites), they're talking or texting about it on their cell phones or, egads!, trash-talking by the water cooler. Must our personal conversations always revolve around the kids?

The guy at the center of the storm, Cameron Pettigrew (who seems like a nice enough chap from his interview), said he knew of at least 10 fantasy leagues at Fidelity in which "leaders and managers played." Interesting. I'm assuming a "leader" is senior to a "manager," and yet only the managers were fired. What's more, all four of the terminated guys were acting as league commissioners (which, frankly, should be punishment enough). So only the commissioners were gambling because they held the antes? That doesn't make any sense either. In fact, it sounds more like a certain President's tortured definition of "sexual relations."

Though he didn't narc on the guy, Cameron said at least one higher-up who played in his league has not been fired. Methinks that guy (or gal) is shaking in his boots right about now. Or should be...

Could it be that the "leaders" encouraged -- or perhaps pressured??? -- the managers to serve as commissioners to cover their behinds, then turned a blind eye to the rule-breaking? Your Honor, something stinks at Fidelity's Westlake offices, and it ain't just Trent Edwards...

Now I'm wishing I'd pursued that law degree everyone told me I should get, because I'm pretty sure I could make mincemeat out of the over-zealous Fidelity vice cops. Those four boys aren't just going to get their jobs back...they're due for a nice apology and perhaps a little extra cha-ching in their Christmas stocking if they'd be so kind as to drop their inevitable lawsuit.

Fantasy Fools unite! Join me in support of our fantasy brethren, by sending a polite, yet direct, email to Tom Herrick, a GM in Fidelity's Westlake office, at (I did a little detective work and found this guy's name and contact info), and let him know that the company's actions are unreasonable, over-reaching and, almost assuredly, inequitably applied. Remind him that an estimated 30 million Americans currently play fantasy football. That's close to 10% of the US population (which seems a bit high, but the 30mm figure is well-documented). Fidelity has roughly 38,000 employees, so a safe bet would be that at least 2,000 or so are fantasy enthusiasts. And only four of those "played" while at work? I don't think so.

Off with all their heads! Including that guy in the corner office who's spending more time than any of his staffers on (or, perhaps, the Fantasy Fools blog!). I know...that used to be me before I started my own company seven years ago!

Let's get these guys their jobs back while making a statement about the positive role fantasy football can play in the office environment.

Come could be next!

Midweek updates from around the NFL

I've been in a crappy mood since Monday night, and I suspect I'm not the only one. All I needed was a decent outing from Kurt Warner to move on in my big-money league. Instead, he gave me one stinking point. One point! It's a miracle I didn't break every screen in my house that night.

It's also pretty remarkable I was in contention in the first place, as I was facing off against a guy featuring Peyton, Ray Rice, AP, and DeSean Jackson. Who'dda thunk guys like Jamaal Charles, Quinton Ganther, Miles Austin and the Eagles DST would help me keep pace with that lineup? It would have been a sweet victory.

Alas, I'm down to one remaining league, where I'm 11-2 (after a first-round bye) and season-high points leader. This week I'll be rolling with Schaub over Peyton (worried he'll hit the showers early), the incomparable Chris Johnson, Cedric (though I'm tempted to play Beanie vs. Rams), Randy Moss (I'm lucky I had a bye last week, but he'd better show up Sunday), Roddy, Garcon (probably), Gates, Eagles DST and Hartley. That lineup has been rock solid all year, so I'm confident. Just like I was heading into Monday night...

OK, enough about me. On to the updates:

Just as we were starting to warm up to Bruce Gradkowski, he's been lost for the season with injuries to both knees. Charlie Frye -- not JaMarcus Russell -- will start this weekend for Oakland. I can't imagine any Raider starting for a fantasy playoff team.

Mark Sanchez will likely get the start for the Jets-Falcons tilt, but he's a risky play -- despite the favorable matchup -- given his time away and his limited effectiveness prior to his knee injury.

Looks like both Matt Ryan and Michael Turner will again be game-time decisions this week.

Matt Stafford will most likely sit out another week.

Correll Buckhalter will probably miss the Raiders game with his bum ankle. Take note, Knowshon Moreno owners. He'll be facing the same defense that just made a fantasy star out of Ganther on Sunday, and Moreno should get the lion's share of the carries.

This week's Quinton Ganther looks to be Arian Foster. Facing the Rams' sorry defense, he should be a decent flex play, even though Chris Brown and/or Ryan Moats will take some carries.

Mike Bell is on track to return to action on Saturday night. That's bad news for both Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas owners. I must admit, I have a pretty lousy track record projecting which Saints RB will do best in any given game, and when all three are healthy, it's an even tougher call. Suffice it to say I'm high on one of them; I just don't know which one.

Larry Fitzgerald sprained his right knee and suffered a bone contusion Monday night. The team is optimistic that he'll play this weekend, but be warned: He won't be 100%. Then again, 80% of Fitz is better than 100% of most of your other options.

Nate Burleson will not play in Week 15 due to a high ankle sprain.

Despite earlier reports that Kevin Curtis could finally return to Philly's starting lineup this week due to Jeremy Maclin's injury, the call goes to Jason Avant. He's a marginal play against a vulnerable 49ers secondary that played way over their heads Monday night.

Neil Rackers will be sidelined for at least a week or two due to the groin injury he suffered Monday night. Mike Nugent, cut by the Bucs after going 2-of-6 on FG attempts, will cover for him. If you were counting on Rackers, you'd be well-advised to look outside Arizona for a sub.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Week 14 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Eli Manning, QB, Giants -- Passed for 391 yards and 3 TDs without an interception, but he fumbled twice.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints -- Threw for 296 yards and a trio of TDs.
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts -- Overcame 3 INTs with 220 passing yards and 4 TDs.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans -- Continued his assault on the Fantasy MVP crown, combining for 186 yards and 3 TDs.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens -- His monster game generated 166 rushing yards and a score, plus 4 receptions for 53 yards, before being pulled early due to the blowout.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs -- Gained 143 rushing yards and a TD, and caught 7 passes for 38 yards.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers – Compiled 167 yards and a TD on the ground, plus 2 catches for 10 yards.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings -- Ran for 92 yards and 2 TDs, plus 3 receptions for 40 yards.
Ryan Grant, RB, Packers -- Raced for 137 yards and a pair of scores.
Thomas Jones, RB, Jets -- Rumbled for 99 yards and 2 TDs.
Quinton Ganther, RB, Redskins -- Made the most of his first start, combining for 93 yards and a pair of scores.
Reggie Bush, RB, Saints -- Ran for 33 yards and hauled in 6 receptions for 46 yards and 2 TDs.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos -- Set a new NFL record with 21 receptions for 200 yards and a pair of TDs.
Andre Johnson, WR, Texans -- Also had a huge day with 11 catches for 193 yards and 2 TDs.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles -- Mr. Big Play did it again, twice, scoring on a 60-yard pass and a 72-yard punt return, to go with his 178 receiving yards.

Dallas Clark, TE, Colts -- His 5 catches generated 43 yards and three of Manning’s TD strikes.

Eagles defense/special teams -- Gave up 38 points, but scored on a fumble return and punt return, recovered four fumbles and sacked Eli three times.
Titans defense -- Notched 5 INTs, 1 sack, a defensive touchdown and held the Rams to 7 points.
Texans defense -- Amassed 3 sacks, an interception and return TD, while holding the Seahawks to 7 points.

This was a great week to play against…

Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals – Picked a terrible time for his worst game of the season, offsetting all his 178 passing yards with 2 INTs and a fumble, with no TDs. Dammit.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars -- Limited to 139 passing and 26 rushing yards.
Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Raiders -- Against the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense, held to 153 yards without a score before leaving with an injury.
Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals -- Continued his disappointing season with just 94 passing yards and a lone TD.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers -- Threw for only 180 yards and failed to complete a TD pass for the first time this season.
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs -- Passed for 224 yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers -- Grounded by high winds and the Browns secondary with just 201 passing yards.
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs -- Tossed 2 INTs and only amassed 84 passing yards.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns -- Just 9 yards rushing with 2 catches for 10 yards.
Chris Brown, RB, Texans -- Took a back seat to Ryan Moats, gaining just 7 yards on 3 carries.
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals – Fumbled early, limiting his overall production to 3 rushing and 13 receiving yards on 2 catches.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Buccaneers -- Grounded with 14 total yards.
Correll Buckhalter, RB, Broncos -- Held to 19 rushing yards.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers -- Just 29 yards rushing for the day.
Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks -- Only 39 yards on the ground.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams -- Rushed for a meager 47 yards and only caught 2 passes for 6 yards.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers -- Inexplicably held to 53 rushing yards plus one 17-yard catch.

Randy Moss, WR, Patriots -- His 16-yard catch was negated by a fumble, leaving him with a goose egg.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles -- Didn’t make a catch before leaving with an injury.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars -- His solo reception went for 6 yards.
Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders -- Just a measly 8-yarder on the day.
Lee Evans, WR, Bills -- Had one 11-yard reception.
Donald Driver, WR, Packers -- Took 2 catches to get to 11 yards.
Mario Manningham, WR, Giants -- His 2 grabs went for 16 yards.
Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins -- Last week’s hero had just 3 receptions for 22 yards.
Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs -- Held to 11 yards on 2 catches.
Donnie Avery, WR, Rams -- Only 2 balls for 14 yards.
Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers -- Limited to 2 receptions for 22 yards.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals – So was he.
Hines Ward, WR, Steelers -- His 4 catches went for 21 yards.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets -- Brought down one 26-yarder.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts -- Only 39 yards on 2 catches.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions -- Just 37 yards on 4 balls.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts -- His 4 balls produced a mediocre 43 yards.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals – Took 5 catches to reach 40 yards, plus a fumble.

I didn’t see that coming…

Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens -- Scored twice in garbage time while amassing 76 rushing yards.
Fred Davis, TE, Redskins -- Caught 3 passes for 50 yards and 2 TDs.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Week 14 column: This is why we play the game

The next time a friend tells you he doesn’t understand the attraction of fantasy football, you can point to Week 14 of the 2009 season as your Exhibit A.

Fantasy football is great because you stayed alert until the waning seconds of Sunday night’s Eagles-Giants battle royale even if you had no stake in the final score. After all, who knows better than fantasy owners that when DeSean Jackson starts a play on Philly’s half of the field, he’s just as likely to finish it in the opponent’s end zone as anywhere else?

It’s great because it gives you reason to flip over to the Chiefs-Bills game, if only to witness Jamaal Charles’ quiet emergence as an offensive force.

You may not have known who Quinton Ganther was a week ago, but you do now. Nobody else outside Oakland and the Capitol Beltway has a clue.

I wonder how many “regular” NFL fans could identify the Ravens’ starting tailback? Not only do you know Ray Rice is a beast, but you can name both of his backups!

You had a bead on Chris Johnson’s amazing season well before the casual NFL fan noticed. Andre Johnson’s heroics come as no surprise to you. Everyone knows Brett Favre, but you’ve already started to think that Bruce Gradkowski could be an interesting sleeper candidate for 2010.

The purists would never admit it, but fantasy enthusiasts have higher football IQs than the vast majority of long-time NFL fans. We don’t just know the players’ names; we know who’s on the rise, and who’s playing on borrowed time.

You may not be able to diagram the Cover 2, but you know which teams field the stingiest rush and pass defenses. And which defenses couldn’t stop your state’s high school champs.

But I suppose you and I have at least one thing in common with the casual fan. None of us knows, or cares, who quarterbacked the Rams on Sunday.


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. Filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. At this stage of the season, however, the pickings are slim. Hopefully your team is strong enough that you don’t need to juggle your lineup on your way to a title.

Catch 'em while you can

Quinton Ganther, RB, Redskins. We didn’t know he would start until the middle of last week, but he was a godsend for those who slotted him into their lineup against the awful Raiders run defense. Unfortunately, the road won’t be as smooth against the Giants and Cowboys; but Ganther proved his value at the goal-line and he showed some nifty moves as a receiver, too.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans. Here’s the honest truth: We can’t trust head coach Gary Kubiak when it comes to allocating touches between his motley crew of tailbacks. Chris Brown started Sunday’s game, but finished with three lousy carries. Ryan Moats generated the most rushing yards and a short touchdown run, but Foster got the most carries and receiving yards. Kubiak says he’s “fixing to pick it up big-time” for Foster, so that would suggest he’d be a great sleeper candidate against the Rams next weekend. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs. Now that he’s completed his four-game suspension, Bowe is poised to return to action against the Browns. If he was released prematurely in your league, he could be a solid addition to your playoff roster. Chris Chambers’ stock plummets with Bowe’s return, given the Chiefs’ limited aerial firepower.

Don’t be fooled

Maurice Morris, RB, Lions. Now that Kevin Smith has been lost with a severe knee injury, Morris is likely to get the lion’s share of the carries (sorry…I had to do it). But Morris offers very little upside against the Cardinals and 49ers over the next two weeks, so why bother? Surely you have better options.

Devin Aromashodu, WR, Bears. He was the unexpected beneficiary of Devin Hester’s absence, amassing eight catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. That’s nice. Now move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

Nick Folk, K, Cowboys. Apparently his holder isn’t the problem. Folk appears to have a serious case of the yips, having shanked six of his last nine attempts. Even if the Cowboys don’t cut him, you should.

Cowboys defense/special teams. With DeMarcus Ware (sprained neck) highly likely to miss at least the next game, and the Saints on deck, you’ll want to find another defense for Week 15. The Texans (at Rams), Cardinals (at Lions) and Seahawks (vs. Bucs) are probably available, and each should produce plenty of turnovers (with a possible score to boot) against their hapless opponents.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday morning updates

Good morning, Fools! Huge day in Fantasyland, as most of us begin our playoffs this week. I've got a bye in one league, but am playing for my life in three others. Let's see what's hopping around the NFL so far. As you know, inactives and other late-breaking developments will be tweeted soon.

Nothing official yet, but looks like both Ryan and Turner are out for the Falcons. I don't like anyone in their uniform not named Roddy White today.

Mike Sims-Walker will START, according to ESPN. That's a big surprise, but if you've got him, you've gotta roll with him vs. Miami's pass D.

Tom Brady (various ailments) should be fine. Start him if you've got him.

Percy Harvin is INACTIVE! Huge news. I guess those migraines are pretty serious. Nice bump for Berrian and Shiancoe. Rice is a must-start anyway.

Mike Bell is probably going to miss today's game, which solidifies my prediction of a big game for Pierre Thomas.

Devin Hester is also expected to sit.

Weather could be a factor for the Eagles-Giants tilt (90% chance of rain and 15-25 mph winds), Raiders-Jags (rain, wind), Panthers-Pats (same), Dolphins-Jags, and Lions-Ravens (100% chance of rain, plus wind). Sheesh...with that much weather, it almost cancels everything out, since so many will be playing in it.

OK, here come the inactives. Look for tweets now.

No significant offensive players missing for the Dolphins, Jags, Packers, Bills, Chiefs or Bengals (other than Bernard Scott). Mark Sanchez is out, as expected, for the Jets, as is Michael Clayton for the Bucs.

Good luck to all Fools!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bits and pieces from today's Sporting News column

Here are a few items pulled from my 4th and Long column on

Truth be told, Tom Brady’s owners are likely to start him against the Panthers even if he’s wearing a full body cast. Now that he’s added a rib injury to his bum finger and shoulder, they may have to. None of the maladies is likely to ground him Sunday, but don’t be surprised if you see him yawning on the sidelines. He’s got a new baby at home, and I’m guessing his supermodel wife expects him to pitch in at night. Lord knows I’d do whatever she asked.

Kellen Clemens will start for the Jets over the injured Mark Sanchez in a very favorable matchup with the Bucs. Clemens shouldn’t be on your radar, but it doesn’t get much easier for Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. Either is a solid WR3 this week.

Atlanta is desperate for a win, so they’re doing everything possible to get Matt Ryan (turf toe) back under center. Regardless of his status, you should consider other options. Ryan was picked off three times in his earlier meeting with the Saints (offset by 289 yards and 1 TD), and New Orleans’ secondary has been living off turnovers all season.

Michael Turner (ankle) will likely be a game-time decision as well, but haven’t we seen this movie before? And didn’t his owners hate the ending?

Chris Johnson wants you to know that “my ankle is fine; I’m good.” So relax, would ya? That said, most of his owners I know (including yours truly) are enjoying a bye this weekend. Hey Chris, be careful out there.

DeSean Jackson is expected to return after sitting out one game due to his concussion. He belongs in your starting lineup against a Giants secondary that has surrendered 21 passing scores to date. They’re susceptible to the big play which, as you know, is how D-Jax makes his living.

Devin Hester’s status may not be known until game-time due to a calf injury. That said, he (and his struggling quarterback) haven’t produced in four consecutive games, so the chances of either prospering against Green Bay’s stingy secondary are slim.

Justin Gage is expected to return from his back injury this week, though Kenny Britt’s performance in his absence will likely limit Gage’s snaps. I’m still not a fan of Vince Young as a fantasy QB – and the fact that he aggravated his knee in Thursday’s practice doesn’t help – but even I have to admit Britt’s and his matchup with the Rams is tempting.

LATE UPDATE: Mike Sims-Walker (knee) has been downgraded to doubtful for Sunday's game against Miami. Bad news for his owners. This is a bump up for Torry Holt, but not necessarily enough to make him a good start, even against Miami's secondary.

Sore ribs have kept Visanthe Shiancoe limited in practice this week, but he doesn’t appear in jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game. He’s a safe start against the Bengals, who rank roughly in the middle of the pack against opposing tight ends.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Week 14 Starters & Benchwarmers

You don’t need me advising you to start Drew Brees and Chris Johnson, or to bench Josh Freeman and Brian Finneran. So I’ll leave the obvious recommendations to the network bozos and focus instead on players typically on the bubble of most fantasy lineups. Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 14.

Watch ‘em roll

Alex Smith, QB, 49ers vs. Cardinals. Last week’s “flier” is this week’s full-fledged recommendation, now that Smith has emerged as a legitimate fantasy passer. With 769 yards, 7 TDs and just one interception over the last three games, Smith has earned the confidence of his coach and his owners. He’ll undoubtedly be forced to air it out often against the high-flying Cards, so count on more happy returns Monday night.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs vs. Bills. He has quietly been performing at an elite level over the past four weeks against some formidable competitors, with 389 combined yards and 4 TDs over that span. And what do you know? Here comes the league’s worst run defense (172 yards-per-game average). Yahtzee!

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints at Falcons. Reggie Bush is in the coach’s doghouse, and Mike Bell is dealing with a sore knee, so things are stacking up well for Thomas this week against Atlanta’s rapidly imploding defense. A minor quad injury won’t keep him from contributing as both a rusher and receiver, especially near the goal-line.

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers vs. Cardinals. If Smith (above) is going to come through, his top wideout will need to pitch in. What better time for the rookie to notch his first 100-yard game than at home, in front of a national audience? Arizona’s 30th-ranked pass defense coughs up 258 yards per game, and Vernon Davis can’t get all of them.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bills at Chiefs. Before the Jets’ Darrelle Revis shut him down last Thursday, Owens was on a nice roll, with 378 yards and 2 TDs over a three-game stretch. He should bounce back nicely against KC’s vulnerable secondary, provided the winds at Arrowhead aren’t blowing too strong.

More thumbs up: QBs Kurt Warner, Matt Schaub, Donovan McNabb; RBs Ray Rice, Thomas Jones, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Grant, Laurence Maroney; WRs Roddy White, Robert Meachem, Jeremy Maclin, Davone Bess.

Roll ‘em back

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals at Vikings. With just three multi-touchdown games and still looking for his first 300-yarder, Palmer has been a huge disappointment to his owners. That’s unlikely to change against a Vikings secondary eager for redemption after Sunday night’s fiasco. Palmer will be on his back too much to contribute.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Packers. I wasn’t kidding when I said last week would be his 2009 swan song. If you saw Green Bay’s 4th-ranked run defense shut down Ray Rice on Monday night, you understand why Forte should be nowhere near your starting lineup this Sunday. He’ll be lucky to replicate the 55-yard outing he had against them in the opener.

Chris Brown, RB, Texans vs. Seahawks. Though Steve Slaton has been placed on injured reserve, Brown must still share carries with Ryan Moats. Seattle’s run defense has been solid lately, as Frank Gore learned last week. If nothing else, at least Brown is unlikely to throw another pick this weekend.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants vs. Eagles. Aside from a 126-yard outing against Atlanta in Week 11, he has been pretty mediocre lately. Philly’s top-ten pass defense has been playing well, so don’t expect much from Manningham this week either.

Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers vs. Jets. His strong, two-week run (207 yards, 1 TD) will come to a screeching halt with Revis attached to his hip. The league’s best corner anchors its best pass defense, which is bad news for everyone associated with the Bucs’ passing game.

More thumbs down: QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Matt Cassel, Bruce Gradkowski; RBs Kevin Smith, Brandon Jacobs, Jerious Norwood, Jerome Harrison, Beanie Wells; WRs Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Chris Chambers, Devin Hester, Austin Collie, Bernard Berrian, Jason Avant, Donnie Avery.


Quinton Ganther, RB, Redskins at Raiders. Despite his undistinguished four-year resume, Ganther merits fantasy consideration in light of his starting assignment against one of the league’s worst run defenses. No team has surrendered more rushing TDs (18) than Oakland, and only two average worse than their 159 rushing yards per game. Rock Cartwright will revert back to his change-of-pace and kick-return duties.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…fails to gauge the winds. This time of year, frigid cold, snow and ice are prevalent around the NFL. But nothing can ground passing games like gusting winds, so be sure to check the weather reports (or my tweets) before finalizing your lineup. That's why I've recommended sitting Big Ben, Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward for tonight's game. And don’t forget that kickers hate the winds more than anybody.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sleeper alert, plus weather worries

Well, Redskins HC Jim Zorn pulled the ole switcharoo on us today, naming Quinton Ganther as his starting RB for Sunday's game, relegating Rock Cartwright back to his change-of-pace and kick return duties. This is really only interesting because the Skins face the pathetic Raiders run defense this week, so any starting back has a chance to prosper.

Ganther has a very limited resume, having spent three uneventful years in Tennessee before getting cut and picked up by the Skins in Week 10 after Portis went down. He was the team's leading rusher last week (8 carries for a healthy 46 yards), and apparently looked pretty good in the process. (Must admit I either didn't see him, or didn't notice. But he was the primary back on the drive that should have nailed the Saints' coffin shut; but Suisham shwmissed and that was that.)

So, if you were counting on Cartwright, better make the switch now. And if you need a sleeper back to take into your first-round battle, Ganther has a primo matchup going for him.

Also, in NYC, Mark Sanchez will sit out Week 14 in favor of Kellen Clemens. While in Detroit, Culpepper gets the start over the injured Matt Stafford (shoulder).

WEATHER ALERT: Bone-chilling temperatures and winds gusting up to 30 mph are forecast for Thursday night's Steelers-Browns game. The chill isn't the problem as much as the winds. If they're really that bad -- and they ranged from 25-39 mph today -- then you simply can't trust anyone involved in the passing games. You probably weren't banking on Brady Quinn & Co. anyway, but I, for one, expected big things from Santonio Holmes. And if Hines Ward sits as expected, Mike Wallace's matchup could have been terrific. Big Ben also would normally be a great start. the weather reports. If the winds arrive as expected, the safe option is to sit Big Ben and his WRs. Rashard Mendenhall, on the other hand, should be huge.

Big news from around the NFL week you hear Steve Slaton's arm is tingling, the next he's on IR with a potentially serious spine injury. If you have Chris Brown, don't drop him. If he's available, go get him. Ryan Moats is a desperation play only.

Also joining Slaton on IR this week is Clinton Portis, which comes as less of a shock. Good news for the long-term value of Rock Cartwright, though he's stuck in a committee arrangement. Still like his chances against the terrible Raiders run defense this week.

All signs point to DeSean Jackson returning to action in Week 14 after sitting out last week due to his concussion. Brian Westbrook actually returned to practice today too, but don't count on him playing any time soon.

Kurt Warner hurt his hip on the last play of the game Sunday night -- begging the question "Why was Warner in so late in a blowout?" -- but it doesn't look like it's going to be an issue for Week 14. That said, it figures that Warner is playing Monday night, so you'll have to take your chances if you want to start him.

Matt Schaub dislocated his non-throwing shoulder on Sunday, but he's not expected to miss this week's start against Seattle. Still, he comes with some measure of risk.

Looks like Hines Ward will be a game-time decision on Thursday night. I'm guessing he sits out against the Browns, making Mike Wallace a viable fill-in for this sweet matchup.

Shaun Suisham is out, Graham Gano is in as Redskins K. Just reporting the news, folks.

New Orleans should pick him up just to say thank you.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Week 13 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys -- Won a lot of games for his owners, just not Dallas, with 392 yards and 3 TDs, with no INTs.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints -- Started off slowly, but ended with 419 yards, 2 TDs and an INT.
Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals -- Appeared to be just fine, thank you, passing for 285 yards and a trio of TDs.
Jason Campbell, QB, Redskins -- Passed for 367 yards, 3 TDs and an INT, and almost pulled off a huge upset.
Brady Quinn, QB, Browns -- Tossed 3 TDs while amassing 271 passing yards.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers – Kept his grip on the top spot with 263 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs mostly offset by 30 rushing yards.
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers -- Threw for 2 TDs and 373 yards.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants -- Had his best game of the season, with 113 combined yards and 2 scores.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts -- Scored twice, ran for 79 yards and caught 3 passes for 17 yards.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos -- Ran for 86 yards and a pair of TDs.

Robert Meachem, WR, Saints -- His 8 receptions totaled 142 yards and a TD, and his fumble return score will count in most leagues.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals -- Caught 8 passes for 143 yards and 1 TD.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals -- His 7 receptions produced 98 yards and 2 scores.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals -- Pulled in 9 balls for 137 yards and a TD.
Smilin’ Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys -- Reeled in 10 passes for 104 yards and a score.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons -- Had 9 receptions for 104 yards and a last-second TD.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions -- Brought down 6 passes for 123 yards and 1 TD.
Santonio Holmes, WR, Steelers -- Caught 8 passes for 149 yards and a score.
Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys -- His 6 catches generated 60 yards and 2 TDs.
Wes Welker, WR, Patriots -- Didn’t score, but hauled in 10 receptions for 167 yards.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers – Excelled on Monday night with 7 catches for 79 yards and a pair of TDs.
Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers -- Kept his magical season going with 6 catches for 111 yards and 1 TD.
Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys -- Caught 14 passes for 156 yards.
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers -- Had 8 receptions for 167 yards.

Eagles defense/special teams -- Notched 2 sacks, 3 turnovers, an INT-return TD and held Atlanta to 7 last-second points.

This was a great week to play against…

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs -- Tossed 2 INTs and only amassed 84 passing yards before getting the hook.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers -- Threw for 321 yards and ran for 30 more, but 5 picks without a TD ruined it all.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears -- Passed for just 143 yards and a solo TD, but at least no turnovers.

Larry Johnson, RB, Bengals -- With Benson back in action, promptly disappeared with a total of 4 rushing yards.
Cowboys RBs -- Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice combined for 45 rushing yards and just 6 catches for 20 yards.
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals – Held to just 28 rushing yards without a catch on Sunday night.
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals – Offset his 50 rushing yards and 8-yard catch with a costly fumble.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles -- Managed just 2 yards rushing and 3 catches for 24 yards.
Chris Jennings, RB, Browns -- Rookie got his first start and rushed for 28 measly yards.
Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots -- Kept from scoring while rushing for 41 yards.
Ryan Grant, RB, Packers – Ditto.
Jerious Norwood, RB, Falcons -- Starting for Michael Turner, held to 42 combined yards.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings -- Ran for a paltry 19 yards while 6 receptions totaled 46 yards.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens – Limited to 54 rushing yards and 3 catches for 17 yards, plus a fumble.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants -- Just one 10-yard catch.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars -- His solo reception amount to 12 yards.
Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs -- Held to 11 yards on 2 catches.
Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens – Grounded with just 13 yards on 2 balls.
Lee Evans, WR, Bills -- His only reception went for 38 yards.
Devin Hester, WR, Bears -- His went for 48 yards.
Terrell Owens, WR, Bills -- Had just 3 catches for 31 yards.

I didn’t see that coming…

Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Raiders -- Shocked the Steelers with 308 yards and 3 TDs, plus 20 rushing yards.
Michael Vick, QB, Eagles -- Got to show off once his team got a big lead, scoring as a rusher and passer, plus 48 yards passing and 17 rushing.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns -- Ran for 35 yards and caught 7 passes for 62 more and 2 TDs.

Devin Thomas, WR, Redskins -- Pulled down 7 passes for 100 yards and a pair of TDs.
Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders -- Brought in 4 receptions for 128 yards and 2 TDs.
Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins -- Caught 10 passes for 117 yards and a score.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Week 13 Column: Complaining only gets you so far

As the great Joe Walsh once sang, “I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do.”

That deep thought came to mind as I surveyed my results from this weekend’s games. It was one of those rare four-win weeks that never seem to cheer me as much as the four-loss weeks depress me. Perhaps that’s the sign of a good owner, always looking for ways to improve. More likely, it’s just another manifestation of my obsessive devotion to this game.

Which is why I’m kicking myself for taking the safe route in one league by benching Kurt Warner in favor of Donovan McNabb. It was the prudent thing to do, given Warner’s iffy status and late starting time, but those extra yards and TDs sure would have been sweet. With games against the 49ers, Lions and Rams up next, though, you can bet Warner will be safely entrenched in my starting lineup for the duration.

I’m glad I was prescient enough to bench the streaking Terrell Owens against Darrelle Revis for Pierre Garcon, but what was I thinking starting Donnie Avery over Roddy White? Oh yeah…I was concerned about the Falcons moving the ball against the Eagles defense. I guess I forgot that garbage-time stats count, too.

On the other hand, garbage time can be a beautiful thing, as those of us banking on Percy Harvin were reminded late Sunday night.

I should be celebrating that I was able to nab Garrett Hartley before my competitors in two leagues got wind of his ascension to the starting lineup. Instead, I’m irritated that I missed out in another league, settling instead for five measly points from Ryan Longwell.

Fortunately, none of those decisions cost me a victory – as they have in the past – or a postseason berth. But this is the time of year when lineup errors are magnified, and late-breaking developments can boost or doom your team.

No doubt, plenty of fantasy owners find themselves on the outside of the postseason looking in, thanks to faulty starting calls and untimely swoons by their key players.

Adrian Peterson’s owners surely expected more from their top pick against Arizona.
Laurence Maroney picked a rotten time to end his scoring streak, DeAngelo Williams was sorely missed, and LeSean McCoy was a bum in Atlanta. Reggie Wayne, T.O. and Mike Sims-Walker owe their owners an explanation.

But I guess I shouldn’t complain. The postseason is here. And besides, life’s been good to me so far.


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.
Catch 'em while you can

Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Raiders. Since becoming Oakland’s starter three weeks ago, he has passed for 691 yards, six TDs and just one interception. Mind you, I’d rather go to a Susan Boyle concert than pick up a Raiders QB; but who’d have thunk Gradkowski would hang 308 yards and three TDs on the Steelers? He has tough matchups against the Redskins and Broncos ahead, but Week 16 at Cleveland is enticing. Don’t laugh…injuries and teams resting their studs early could make Gradkowski the latest in a perennial line of unexpected title-week heroes. Okay, you can laugh a little.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns. With 97 combined yards and two receiving scores against the Chargers, Harrison seems well-positioned to carry the load for the Browns down the stretch. Tasty matchups against the Chiefs and Raiders in Weeks 15 and 16, respectively, could make him a sneaky flex play for those lacking RB depth.

Robert Meachem, WR, Saints. With seven touchdowns over the last five games – including yesterday’s dramatic fumble return – it’s hard to believe he is still available in roughly half of fantasy leagues. That’s undoubtedly due to the low number of targets Meachem typically sees each game. That changed dramatically Sunday when Drew Brees looked his way 10 times, connecting on eight passes for 142 yards and a score. His days as a free agent are over.

Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins. I normally steer you away from breakout receivers on run-oriented teams. But when you consider that Miami faces the sieve-like secondaries of Jacksonville, Tennessee and Houston over the next three weeks, Bess offers significant upside. Chad Henne targeted him 14 times against the Patriots, the second time he’s done so this season; so Bess is no one-week wonder.

Garrett Hartley, K, Saints. Those of us paying attention Sunday morning got a nice upgrade at the kicker position, while others were stuck with John Carney’s goose egg. After connecting on four of five field goal attempts – missing only a desperate 58-yarder at the end of regulation – Hartley appears secure in his old job, and he should continue to produce well thanks to his prolific offense.

Don’t be fooled

Daunte Culpepper, QB, Lions. Now that Matt Stafford has re-injured his non-throwing shoulder, the going-nowhere Lions are likely to shut down their franchise QB. Enter Culpepper, who hasn’t belonged on a fantasy roster since 2005. He has a great weapon in Calvin Johnson, but lacks the consistency and offensive line protection to help you in the postseason.

Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles. The chances of Westbrook (concussion) returning this season are getting slimmer by the day. If he does return – most likely no earlier than Week 16 – he won’t be a safe start anyway, as the team will surely ease him back slowly. If you need roster space, feel free to bid him adieu.

Devin Thomas, WR, Redskins. Might Sunday’s 100-yard, two-TD performance serve as Thomas’ long-awaited coming-out party? Perhaps, but don’t expect a repeat performance any time soon. Washington’s passing game can’t be trusted, every matchup is a tough one for the Redskins, and the second-year wideout has been a disappointment up till now.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday morning updates for Week 13

Good morning, Fools. Big week for most of us. Let's get right to it.

Only a trickle of inactive updates so far this a.m. Be sure to follow my tweets (starting at about 11 am CT) for the latest ins and outs. reports DeAngelo Williams is OUT today. Wow... Terrible timing for a lot of fantasy owners. Jonathan Stewart gets a huge boost.

Steven Jackson is active, and will start as expected.

Steve Slaton is definitely OUT today, which should mean a fairly big day for Chris Brown. Now, he's no Chris Johnson, but he'll get the majority of the touches, including in the red zone. I don't expect much out of Ryan Moats, but the Texans should be able to move the ball on the Jags, especially through the air. They'll score plenty, so Brown has a good chance to nab one of them.

Big Ben also active, but you know I don't like him against Oakland.

Cedric Benson will start, as expected, but Bernard Scott is OUT.

Roddy White will play, but I really worry about him teaming with Chris Redman against the Eagles. As mentioned before, he was having a really mediocre game against the crappy Bucs last week, until a last-second TD saved the day. Not so sure the Falcons can muster that against the Eagles.

By the way, not only is Matt Ryan (turf toe) out this week, but possibly for the rest of the season, per swirling rumors.

Michael Turner also out as expected. I don't like either Atlanta RB in this matchup, but Norwood has a better chance than Snelling to produce.

Reggie Bush will play today, which is not great news for Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell. I still think Pierre is a decent start against the Skins (whose pass D is much better than their run D), but you never know with the Saints. They've been hard to peg lately in terms of their RB production, tending to stick with the hot hand du jour.

Kolby Smith is on IR. That's news only because he's Jamaal Charles' backup, bumping up the starter's value even more.

Ahmad Bradshaw is expected to return to action today. Lord knows the G-men could use him, as poorly as Brandon Jackson has been playing. Don't like either back's chances against a solid Dallas run D, but Bradshaw might surprise us.

Julius Jones will start today against a tough 49ers defense. Bad news for Justin Forsett's newest fans. This will be an interesting one to watch, as many of us who picked up Forsett are hoping Julius implodes so Forsett will have value during the fantasy postseason.

You know DeSean Jackson is out. I think McNabb will have a very nice day throwing the ball to Maclin, Avant and Shady McCoy.

No definitive word on Kurt Warner yet, unless you care that his agent "is confident" he'll play tonight. Fact is, we thought he was going to start last week until the 11th hour, then poof! You can't take a chance like that when he's playing in the Sunday night game, unless you also have either Favre, Rodgers or Flacco as another option (these are the only other QBs who play at the same time, or later). Frankly, Favre and Rodgers are better options than a healthy Warner anyway. And Flacco? Yuck...

Big change at the kicker position: Garrett Hartley (above) is expected to be active for the Saints over John Carney. Don't sleep on this one. The Saints are going up against the NFL's #1 pass defense. (That said, once Brees & Co. are finished with them, they likely won't be #1 any more.) However, whether he's kicking XPs or FGs, Hartley should put up plenty of points today.

Also, Jason Elam was released by the Falcons earlier this week, in favor of Matt Bryant. According to the ESPN fantasy site, as of this morning, Elam was still owned in 50.2% of leagues. What's up with that? Be sure you replace Elam this morning if you still have him!

Weather alerts: Could be yucky in KC today. More good news for Jamaal Charles and Knowshon Moreno. Bad for Chambers. Still think Brandon Marshall will be fine.

More to come via Twitter. Good luck to all Fools!