Monday, November 30, 2009

Week 12 Column: Another wacky fantasy season? Not so much

I hear a lot of talk about how crazy the 2009 fantasy season has been. But then again, I hear that every year.

It’s understandable, even if it’s not true. A quick glance at the Week 12 statistical leaders would seem to confirm the topsy-turvy nature of the season. After all, who could’ve predicted just three weeks ago that this weekend’s top rushing performers would include Justin Forsett, Ricky Williams, Larry Johnson, Jamaal Charles and Fred Jackson?

But as unexpected as these results were, they don’t alter the reality that this has been one of the most predictable fantasy seasons in recent memory.

A dozen weeks in, only Brett Favre qualifies as a moderate surprise among the Top 10 fantasy passers. We expected to see Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and a healthy Matt Schaub at the top of the rankings, didn’t we?

The top three running backs to date are, in order, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Adrian Peterson. No huge shock there, though few predicted Johnson would be the odds-on favorite for Fantasy Player of the Year honors. DeAngelo Williams, Steven Jackson and Michael Turner were all pegged as Top 10 RBs, and there they sit. Ray Rice has been a pleasant surprise, but Ricky Williams needed an injury to vault into the elite ranks. Only Matt Forte stands out as an unmitigated bust.

Even among wide receivers, where volatility is the perennial norm, very few true aberrations can be found. Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and Roddy White have all lived up to their draft-day billing. Sure, Miles Austin and Sidney Rice qualify as bombshells, the Steve Smiths swapped positions, and we expected more from Greg Jennings and Calvin Johnson. But again, these variances are hardly Earth-shattering.

Granted, I was the last guy who’d have projected Vernon Davis to sit atop the tight end charts, but Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez are right where we thought they’d be, and Owen Daniels would have been if not for an injury.

So, unless your top three draft choices were Forte, Calvin Johnson and Carolina’s Smith, you probably can’t blame your disappointing record on a seemingly unpredictable series of flukes.

Try blaming bin Laden instead.


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 two players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch 'em while you can

Jerious Norwood, RB, Falcons. If Michael Turner’s aggravated ankle sprain forces him back to the sidelines, the speedy Norwood (above) will most likely start in his place. He is fully recovered from his hip injury – as evidenced by his 22-yard scoring scamper Sunday – which makes Jason Snelling expendable. Norwood is a strong runner and capable receiver, so he could come in handy down the stretch.

Jason Avant, WR, Eagles. Now that DeSean Jackson has joined the growing list of concussed players, Avant should get a start or two in the Eagles’ pass-happy offense. He’s produced well over the past three games as Philly’s third wideout (17 receptions for 276 yards and 1 TD), so consider him a decent proxy while Jackson recuperates.

Don’t be fooled

Vince Young, QB, Titans. Hats off to the inevitable Comeback Player of the Year, who just won his fifth consecutive start and passed for a career-best 387 yards. Unfortunately, he couldn’t shake his unexceptional pattern of completing no more than a single TD pass per game. That’s a trend Young is unlikely to reverse, which makes him an unfit addition to your roster.

Larry Johnson, RB, Bengals. His first 100-yard game of the season will undoubtedly be his last, as Cedric Benson has already been named the Bengals' Week 13 starter. Rookie Bernard Scott remains in the mix as well, so don’t expect many more LJ sightings unless Benson is injured again.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday morning updates

Good morning, Fools! Big news this morning...

So much for my optimism about Cedric Benson playing. He is inactive, meaning Bernard Scott could have a field day against the lowly Browns.

Julius Jones is also out, giving Justin Forsett a chance to torch the sad sack Rams.

Steven Jackson is in, as expected.

Michael Turner is active and will start. Love his chances against the Bucs. Sit Snelling and Jerious Norwood (though both are active).

Coles will play for the Bengals. Steve Smith and J Stewart also good to go for the Panthers.

Most other teams at full strength so far.

You know Big Ben is already out for tonight.

However, according to CBS' Charley Casserly, Kurt Warner woke up not feeling very well. That's a bad sign, and with the Cardinals sporting a 3-game lead in the NFC West, it would make sense that the team could sit him as a precaution. This goes against everything else I've heard all week. Now I'm scared... Not taking any chances now, as it's just too risky.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday updates from around the NFL

First, I hope every Fool had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Okay, enough of the sappy stuff. Let's talk football...

Wish I had some definitive news on the various RBs who've been hurt, but it looks like Cedric Benson, Michael Turner and Julius Jones will all come down to game-time decisions. All three have outstanding matchups, so whoever starts should be in your starting lineup (except Julius; I don't trust him). That means Bernard Scott, Jason Snelling and Justin Forsett should be starting for you if they get the call for their club.

For what it's worth, I think Benson is the most likely to play. Turner has a high ankle sprain, which normally costs players two weeks or more. And Julius had a pretty serious lung contusion, so I can't imagine them risking his health against the Rams when Forsett is fully capable of covering for him. The main caveat for Snelling is that Jerious Norwood is likely to be back from his hip injury. Don't think he's going to get a lot of carries, though; so that shouldn't dampen your enthusiasm much.

Steven Jackson (back) has missed practice all week and will also be a game-day call. It doesn't sound to me like he's in real danger of sitting out, but anything is possible. If he plays, he's a must-start vs. Seattle. Make sure you're getting my inactive tweets.

By the way, Marc Bulger will be out for a few weeks with various injuries, so Kyle Boller will start in his place. Not sure if that's good or bad news for Donnie Avery, frankly. But at least they've had a full week of practice to get in sync.

Steve Slaton will get another start for Houston, but continues to split carries with Chris Brown. Hey, Ryan Moats, it was nice to meet ya. See ya later. Slaton is not a great start against Indy, but not a terrible one either. I wouldn't touch Chris Brown though.

I'm warning you, AP owners. It's just a matter of time before your top pick sits out a game or more with one ailment or another. He's been limited in practice this week with a sore ankle and an undisclosed illness. He's listed as questionable but it sounds like he'll be good to go this week. Just don't be surprised if he plays sparingly, especially if the Vikings get a comfortable lead on the Bears. If you don't have Chester Taylor waiting in the wings, you're playing with fire.

I'm still of the very strong opinion that Kurt Warner will start and play extremely well against the Titans. For those of you who suddenly fear Tennessee now that they've gone on a 4-game winning streak, keep in mind who they've beaten: JAX, SF, BUF and HOU. That's hardly a formidable gantlet to run. Meanwhile, they keep giving up loads of passing yards and scores (a league-worst 25 passing TDs to date), so don't hesitate to start Warner if he suits up. He's been practicing all week and says he feels fine. The Titans might just upset the visiting Cards, but they won't hold Warner down.

Big Ben has now be ruled OUT for Sunday night's game. As highlighted in this week's Starters & Benchwarmers -- which I wrote Wednesday when it appeared he was a shoo-in to play -- I didn't like his matchup against the Ravens anyway. Rookie Dennis Dixon will get his first career start. Methinks he would prefer not to see Ray Lewis staring him down in his initial outing, but that's why he's making the big bucks.

Laveranues Coles will be a game-time decision as well. He's a marginal WR3 against the Browns, but hopefully you have better options.

Rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew is out for the season after blowing out his knee on Thanksgiving. He was just starting to develop into an interesting option, so that's a shame.

If you have Neil Rackers, be prepared to make a last-minute switch. He's been dealing with a groin injury and is listed as questionable. Since he plays in the 4:15 ET game Sunday, it might be wise to make a preemptive move, depending on how your waiver system works. Rackers isn't someone you can't live without anyway.

Adam Vinatieri has already been ruled out again. Matt Stover will continue to handle kicking duties for the undefeated Colts.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Week 12 Starters & Benchwarmers

You don’t need me advising you to start Peyton Manning and Chris Johnson, or to bench Brady Quinn and Jabar Gaffney. 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 12.

Watch ‘em roll

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals vs. Browns. He has just one TD pass over the last three games and he hasn’t surpassed 300 yards in a game this season. But Palmer will reward his owners this week as the Bengals take out their frustrations on their hapless cross-state rivals.

Jason Snelling, RB, Falcons vs. Buccaneers. Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood are likely to remain sidelined, leaving the backfield all to Snelling again. That’s great news against a Tampa Bay defense that’s allowing a league-high 169 rushing yards per game.

Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys vs. Raiders. He hasn’t seen the end zone since Week 8 or posted a 100-yard game since Week 2. Both trends will reverse Thursday against a defense that has given up tons of yards and a league-high 16 rushing scores to date. With Tony Romo’s back hurting, Dallas’ running game should take center stage.

Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks at Rams. Having bounced back nicely from his Week 10 goose egg, Burleson is a great play against a Rams secondary that he torched in the opener (7 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD).

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers vs. Jaguars. With his first pro TD safely under his belt, the rookie is now looking for his first career 100-yard game. Fortunately, the Jags’ porous secondary is traveling cross country, so the stars are aligning nicely.

More thumbs up: QBs Matt Ryan, Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck; RBs Ricky Williams, Knowshon Moreno, Rock Cartwright, LT, Ryan Grant; WRs Chad Ochocinco, Donald Driver, Donnie Avery.

Roll ‘em back

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers at Ravens. Though he is determined to play after experiencing a “mild” concussion last week, Big Ben should watch this one from your bench. Though Baltimore’s secondary has been vulnerable this season, they’ve stiffened up lately. And they still know how to get after opposing QBs.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears at Vikings. It’s getting harder and harder to start Forte even in favorable matchups. At Minnesota, his only value will be as a receiver out of the backfield, and even that poses a challenge these days. If you have safer options, don’t hesitate to use them.

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints vs. Patriots. Reggie Bush will be back. Mike Bell is poaching goal-line carries. And New England has surrendered only three rushing TDs all year. Granted, the Saints can score on anybody; but when your toughest competition comes from your own backfield mates, you’re a risky bet.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles vs. Redskins. Washington’s top-ranked pass defense is making a habit out of shutting down secondary wideouts. Maclin’s up-and-down production does not merit a start this week.

Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints vs. Patriots. He’s caught just eight passes for 85 yards without a score over the last three games, and even the unknown David Thomas has out-performed him. Meanwhile, the Pats allow just 38 yards per game to opposing tight ends.

More thumbs down: QBs Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Donovan McNabb; RBs Kevin Smith, Jamal Lewis, all Raider backs, Ahmad Bradshaw; WRs Calvin Johnson, Kevin Walter, Braylon Edwards.


Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs. In just three games as a Chief, he’s racked up 249 yards and 2 TDs, roughly double the production of his first seven games with the Chargers. With Dwayne Bowe out, Chambers will be the primary target against the team that released him. Think he’ll be motivated to get into the end zone? Yeah, so do I.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…fails to start Kurt Warner against the Titans. Though he sat out the second half last week following a blow to the head, he is expected to play Sunday. Besides, the Cardinals can’t rely on Matt Leinart. Best of all, Tennessee has surrendered a league-worst 25 passing TDs this season.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Week 11 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings -- Racked up 213 passing yards and 4 TDs before hitting the showers early.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants -- Amassed 384 yards and 3 TDs, with a single pick.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers -- Threw for 398 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs before getting knocked out in overtime.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers -- Passed for 344 yards and a pair of TDs.

Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins -- Capitalized on Ronnie Brown’s absence, scoring 3 TDs and amassing 138 combined yards.
Kevin Smith, RB, Lions -- Caught 4 passes for 104 yards and a TD, adding 45 yards on the ground.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs -- Ran for a respectable 58 yards against the league’s best rush defense, but scored on a 6-yard TD pass and on a 97-yard kickoff return.
Jason Snelling, RB, Falcons -- Subbed ably for Michael Turner, scoring twice and generating 89 total yards.
Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots -- Scored twice and rushed for 77 yards.
Mike Bell, RB, Saints -- Punched in 2 short TDs and ran for 75 yards.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bills -- Had his best game in Buffalo, with 9 receptions for 197 yards and 1 monster TD.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions -- Caught 7 passes for 161 yards and 1 TD.
Hines Ward, WR, Steelers -- His 10 catches generated 128 yards and a TD.
Wes Welker, WR, Patriots -- Generated 192 yards on a whopping 15 receptions.
Greg Jennings, WR, Packers -- Pulled down 5 passes for 126 yards and a TD.
Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Browns -- Collected 5 passes for 115 yards and a score.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings -- Hauled in 6 passes for 89 yards and a pair of scores.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles -- 8 catches resulted in 107 yards and a touchdown.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals-- 8 receptions netted 103 yards and 1 TD.
Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens -- Reeled in 9 passes for 142 yards, making him a star in PPR leagues.

Kevin Boss, TE, Giants -- Produced 5 receptions for 76 yards and 2 TDs.
Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers -- Six catches amounted to 108 yards and 1 TD.
Heath Miller, TE, Steelers -- Brought down 7 passes for 95 yards and a score.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons -- Got 8 receptions for 82 yards and a TD.
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings -- His 8 catches amounted to 78 yards and 1 TD.

This was a great week to play against…

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets -- Threw 4 interceptions against just 136 yards and 1 TD.
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys -- Passed for 158 yards, 1 TD and an INT.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks -- Threw for 231 yards and 1 INT, without a TD.
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers -- Limited to just 145 yards and a single scoring pass.
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts -- Had a very un-Manning 299-yard, 1-TD, 2-INT outing.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots -- Again, not terrible; but 310 yards and 1 score is very beatable.

Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins -- Ran for only 5 yards before leaving with an injury. Larry Johnson, RB, Bengals -- Gave anyone crazy enough to start him 2 carries for a whopping 5 yards.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills -- Amassed just 18 rushing yards before leaving with a shoulder injury.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Buccaneers -- Managed only 32 yards on the ground.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants -- Just 34 rushing yards on the day.
Any Raider RB -- Michael Bush, Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden divvied up 84 rushing yards and 5 catches for 27 yards.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers -- Just 47 rushing yards on Thursday night.

Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys -- Blanked by the Redskins’ league-best pass defense.
Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals -- Notched a goose egg against the lowly Rams.
Devery Henderson, WR, Saints -- Managed to lose 2 yards on his only catch.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets -- Had just one 10-yard reception.
Austin Collie, WR, Colts -- One 12-yard catch for the talented rookie.
Lee Evans, WR, Bills -- After his TD reception was overturned by a penalty, ended up with a single 15-yard catch.
Devin Hester, WR, Bears -- Only 4 catches for a measly 18 yards.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos -- Collected only 3 passes for 26 yards.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Seahawks -- 4 receptions equaled 36 yards.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins -- Just 5 catches for 38 yards against a Cowboys team he normally torches.
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys -- Caught only 4 passes for 47 yards.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons -- His 4 only netted 45 yards.

Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos -- One 12-yard catch won’t help.
Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints -- Two catches got 17 yards.

I didn’t see that coming…

Brady Quinn, QB, Browns -- Threw for a career-high 304 yards and 4 TDs, without a turnover.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions -- Winged it for 422 yards and a rookie-best 5 TDs, plus 2 INTs.
Rock Cartwright, RB, Redskins -- Came in for the injured Ladell Betts to run for 67 yards and catch 7 passes for 73 yards.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Week 11 column: Better get your backup, Jack

Who needs starting running backs, anyway?

A quick glance at lineups across your league would show that backup tailbacks were some of the top fantasy producers in Week 11.

Ricky Williams set the tone on Thursday night with a touchdown trifecta. Mike Bell and Jamaal Charles each piled up decent yardage and a pair of scores. Last week’s prized free agents – Jason Snelling, Justin Forsett and Bernard Scott – each filled in ably for their injured mates.

This wasn’t a one-week phenomenon, either. Williams had been a solid contributor even before Ronnie Brown went down, just as Ahmad Bradshaw and Jonathan Stewart have shined in their starters’ shadows.

Bell, Charles, LeSean McCoy, Ladell Betts, Fred Jackson, Darren Sproles, Glen Coffee, Tashard Choice and Ryan Moats have each excelled when called upon. Rookie rushers Beanie Wells and Knowshon Moreno have been coming into their own for weeks now. And let’s not forget, both Rashard Mendenhall and Laurence Maroney began the season as backups, if not afterthoughts.

You’d better believe there’s plenty more to come. Injuries come with the territory in the NFL, and nobody takes more punishment than workhorse running backs. Just ask Ladell Betts, who is probably gone for the season after just his second start.

And as the fantasy playoffs rapidly approach, it’s not too soon to prepare for the possibility that a handful of valuable starters may be resting during the all-important Week 16 matchups, if not earlier. After all, it happens every season. This year, some of the top performers in your league’s title games could be Chester Taylor, Donald Brown, Bell and Sproles, if their respective teams successfully lock down their postseason positions in time.

Stashing those players on your bench now could pay huge dividends later.


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

Rock Cartwright, RB, Redskins – Now that Ladell Betts has been lost with a serious knee injury, Cartwright is the last tailback standing in Washington. Since Clinton Portis has already been ruled out of Week 12 due to aftereffects from his concussion, the eighth-year back will be pressed into service against the Eagles. It’s not the best matchup, but after leading the Redskins in both rushing (67 yards) and receiving (7 catches, 73 yards) against the Cowboys, he seems up to the task.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills – He has offered scant fantasy value since Week 4, when Marshawn Lynch returned from his three-game suspension. For that matter, neither has Lynch. Buffalo’s running game has too little firepower to split between two backs. But if Lynch’s shoulder injury keeps him sidelined, Jackson could once again have the backfield all to himself.

Kahlil Bell, RB, Bears – There’s a new handcuff for Matt Forte, and after the dramatic 72-yard run on his first professional carry more than doubled the starter’s entire production against Philly, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the undrafted rookie steal more carries going forward. He won’t be worth starting unless Forte is injured, but as we’ve seen lately, that could happen on any given play.

Don’t be fooled

Brady Quinn, QB, Browns – You can look at Sunday’s performance as Quinn’s long-awaited breakout game. Or you can write it off as a consequence of playing against the toothless Lions. Since the four touchdowns he threw yesterday exceeded his previous career total, I’m comfortable in siding with the latter.

Matt Leinart, QB, Cardinals – First off, the head blow that knocked Kurt Warner out of Sunday’s game is unlikely to keep him out next week. More important, did you notice that Leinart failed to put up a single point in two quarters of work against the sad-sack Rams? If Warner goes down, you’ll need to turn elsewhere for help.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Week 11 Sunday morning updates

Good morning, Fools! It's that time again.

A few late updates before the tweeting begins...

As tweeted yesterday, Reggie Bush did not make the trip to Tampa Bay today. That's great news for Pierre Thomas and his owners. Consider him a must-start against the Bucs.

Both Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood are out today, which is great news for those who picked up Jason Snelling. Roddy White will play, however.

Interesting news out of Houston, where Steve Slaton has apparently earned his starting gig back from Ryan Moats. Of course, the first time he fumbles it's all over. But if he manages to hang onto the ball today, he could have a nice outing.

Don't be surprised if one of this week's hottest waiver-wire acquisitions is Chris Jennings. With Jamal Lewis (ankle) hobbled and fading fast, and Jerome Harrison inactive, the backup RB will be given an opportunity to audition for greater backfield duties. The matchup vs. the Lions won't hurt. If you have an extra K or D/ST or other deadwood on your bench now, it might not hurt to grab him while he's a free agent and before you need to use a waiver wire priority on him.

ESPN reports that Chris Simms will start today over Kyle Orton. Doesn't necessarily mean that Orton will be inactive, though. We'll have to wait on that. But that's not good news for Brandon Marshall.

Justin Gage is out again today. Kenny Britt will start in his place. Despite the favorable matchup with the Texans, it is still wise to avoid anyone in a Titans jersey not named Chris Johnson.

Todd Heap probably won't play today, leaving the Ravens' starting TE duties to LJ Smith.

OK, the inactive reports are starting. Follow me on Twitter ( for all the late-breaking news.

And once you've set your lineups, take a look at this article from, which goes into some depth about how many NFL players share our passion for fantasy football. Good stuff.

Good luck today! Here's hoping if someone kneels intentionally at the one, he's playing for your competitor!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday updates heading into Week 11

Here are a few tidbits pulled from my Sporting News column today...

I know I’m going out on a limb here, but it looks like Ricky Williams will be alright without Ronnie Brown running the Wildcat…

And after watching DeAngelo Williams gallop around the left side for 50 yards last night, you should never think twice about starting him if he’s active, even when he’s listed as a game-time decision. His knee looks just fine, thank you.

Correll Buckhalter (knee) missed practice on Thursday, leading to concern that he could sit out Sunday’s game with the Chargers. That should be music to the ears of every frustrated Knowshon Moreno owner.

After a somewhat surprising performance against the Rams last week, Reggie Bush is dealing with swelling in his knee. Surprise! Though it is unlikely to keep him out of action on Sunday, you have to assume Pierre Thomas will be featured more against the Bucs as a result. I must admit I was shocked by Thomas’ meager production last week, so I am chalking it up to a one-week aberration.

It looks like Antonio Bryant (knee) will be back in the Bucs’ starting lineup Sunday. Keep him away from yours, though. Kellen Winslow is the only pass-catcher in Tampa Bay who merits a start.

A “probable concussion” kept Laveranues Coles out of today’s practice. Given NFL teams’ heightened sense of caution with head injuries, you should not expect Coles to suit up on Sunday. And if that’s the case, Andre Caldwell’s value spikes significantly, since he will be starting opposite Chad Ochocinco. One caveat: Oakland’s pass defense is better than you think.

Speaking of Oakland, Bruce Gradkowski takes over for JaMarcus Russell, Chaz Schilens will start over Louis Murphy, and Darren McFadden continues to absorb more of the workload at the expense of Justin Fargas and Michael Bush. Sounds like the Raiders are about to turn this thing around!


With Ryan Fitzpatrick getting the nod over the ineffective Trent Edwards in Buffalo, it’s clear the Bills’ quarterback situation is a mess. Enter Brian Brohm, signed this week off the Packers’ practice squad. The former second-round draft pick fell far short of his lofty expectations in Green Bay, but could get a shot at resurrecting his career before long in Buffalo. At least we can assume he’s used to the cold.

Look for Chris Jennings to get some carries this weekend, and possibly beyond, as he auditions for a more prominent role in Cleveland’s backfield. The team is searching for Jamal Lewis’ replacement, and Jerome Harrison has not stepped us as hoped. No need to waste a roster spot on Jennings yet, but it’s worth watching his progress (using your peripheral vision only, of course).

Who wants to bet Darrelle Revis shuts down Randy Moss again Sunday, as he did in their Week 2 showdown (24 yards)? I’ll take the Moss side of that wager all day long.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Week 11 Starters & Benchwarmers

You don’t need me advising you to start Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson, or to bench Bruce Gradkowski and Mike Furrey. 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 11.

Watch ‘em roll

Eli Manning, QB, Giants vs. Falcons. Coming off a solid performance against the Chargers and a week of rest and preparation, Manning faces an Atlanta defense that has given up tons of yards and 29 points per game over the last four weeks. He and his receivers should torch this secondary in the friendly confines of the Meadowlands.

Bernard Scott, RB, Bengals at Raiders. Assuming Cedric Benson (hip) sits this one out, the explosive rookie will shoulder the load against a defense that just made Jamaal Charles look like Eric Dickerson. Scott has the speed to take any carry to the house, and a strong offensive line to smooth his way.

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals at Rams. Sure, this would have been a bolder pick last week. But the rookie has finally established himself as a red-zone threat, and will be facing a defense that’s given up 13 rushing TDs to date. Look for the first 100-yard game of his career, with at least one score.

Devery Henderson, WR, Saints at Buccaneers. Over the last four games, no Saint has caught more balls (15) for more yards (282) than the speedy Henderson. The problem is that he hasn’t scored since Week 1. That should change against a secondary that has given up a whopping 19 passing TDs to date.

Donnie Avery, WR, Rams vs. Cardinals. Though little-known Brandon Gibson led the team in receiving last week, Avery was the scoring machine (67 yards, 2 TDs). Look for another strong outing against the NFL’s 30th-ranked pass defense, as Marc Bulger tries to keep pace with Kurt Warner & Co.

More thumbs up: QBs Matt Ryan, Matt Hasselbeck; RBs Ricky Williams, Jason Snelling, Pierre Thomas, Rashard Mendenhall, Kevin Smith; WRs Steve Breaston, Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Sims-Walker.

Roll ‘em back

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals at Raiders. Oakland’s pass defense is better than you think, having given up only eight TDs through the air all season (3rd best in the NFL). That’s partly because they have a decent secondary, and partly because teams run so easily against them. Palmer won’t hurt you if you start him; but he probably won’t help much, either.

Joseph Addai, RB, Colts at Ravens. It’s hard to sit a player who’s racked up four TDs over the last two games, but the Ravens have surrendered just five rushing (and 15 total) TDs all season and are among the toughest run defenders in the business. Addai has managed to boost his fantasy value despite anchoring one of the NFL’s worst rushing attacks, but the road gets much tougher this week.

Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks at Vikings. Though he will have some value in PPR leagues due to his receiving abilities, Julius Jones’ understudy will be facing the Williams Wall, which has held opposing runners to just 76 yards per game and only a pair of rushing TDs all season. Not what you want to see in your first start.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets at Patriots. New England is fairly stout against the pass, allowing fewer than 200 yards per game through the air. What’s more, they’re playing at home following a devastating loss to Peyton Manning and the Colts. They’ll take out their frustration on Cotchery and his rookie quarterback.

Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys vs. Redskins. Facing the league’s stingiest pass defense, Williams will have trouble getting separation and is unlikely to out-shine Miles Austin again. Though he and Tony Romo have looked better together lately, Williams is a bad bet to excel in this tough matchup.

More thumbs down: QBs Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Kyle Orton, Mark Sanchez; RBs Jamaal Charles, Justin Fargas, Ladell Betts, Marshawn Lynch, Steve Slaton; WRs Michael Crabtree, Chris Chambers, Santana Moss.


Lee Evans, WR, Bills at Jaguars. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s return to the starting QB job is good news for Evans, and probably no one else. It also helps that only the Titans have given up more fantasy points to opposing wideouts than the Jags, and their best corner (Rashean Mathis, groin) won’t be on the field.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…sits Marques Colston following a poor two-week stretch in which he has caught just three passes for 62 yards. He gets a partial pass for playing with the flu last week, and now he lines up against a Tampa Bay secondary that has coughed up 19 TD passes this season. As much as I like Henderson’s chances (see above), I wouldn’t dream of starting him over Colston.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mid-week news from around the NFL

Injuries dominate the news in Fantasyland this week, and most of the current reports aren't good.

Brian Westbrook (concussion) could be down for the count, after sustaining his second concussion of the season. LeSean McCoy is likely to carry the load for the Eagles the remainder of the fantasy season.

Looks like at least another week of Ladell Betts too, as Clinton Portis (concussion) does not appear to be in any hurry to return. That's probably due as much to his health concerns as to his team's sorry state of affairs.

Ronnie Brown's ankle injury will definitely keep him out of Thursday night's game, and probably longer. The team is reportedly worried that he may be out for the remainder of the season, due to the severity of the injury. Ricky Williams' already-inflated stock spikes significantly with this news. LATE UPDATE WED. PM: BROWN JUST PLACED ON I.R., ENDING HIS SEASON. This is terrible news for the Dolphins, and equally tragic for Ronnie's owners. Williams hasn't been this high in years, pardon the pun.

Michael Turner's injury was unofficially announced as a high ankle sprain, which is not what his owners wanted to hear. If you haven't already scooped up Jason Snelling, he's probably already gone. If he isn't, what are you waiting for? Though Jerious Norwood (hip) has started running, it's hard to imagine him being ready to play this week. And if he does, Snelling is still the better choice.

Julius Jones didn't just break a rib on Sunday, but also experienced bleeding in his lung. He's out for at least a couple games, making Justin Forsett the Seahawk RB to own for the foreseeable future.

On a more positive note, Cedric Benson may not miss much time, if any, due to his hip flexor. I've seen conflicting reports about his availability for this weekend, which probably means he'll be a game-time call. Rookie Bernard Scott is the handcuff you want going into Week 11. Not Larry Johnson, who was signed merely as insurance and will be the Bengals' fourth-string back. I mentioned last week that LJ owners may want to hold onto him to see if he lands in a favorable situation. He didn't. Push eject.

Joseph Addai injured a finger Sunday night, while third-string RB Chad Simpson incurred a head injury. Though Addai's injury is unlikely to keep him out of action, Donald Brown could see more carries as a result.

Both DeAngelo Williams (knee) and Jonathan Stewart (Achilles) are listed as questionable for Thursday's game against Miami. Given the short week, don't be surprised if one of them isn't ready in time.

Kyle Orton (ankle) apparently will be ready to play this weekend. That doesn't mean he should be in your starting lineup, but it's even more reason to stay away from Chris Simms on the waiver wire.

On the non-injury front, more big news: Dwayne Bowe has been suspended for 4 games due to a violation of the league's substance abuse program. Though I don't have high hopes for the Matt Cassel/Chris Chambers connection against the Steelers this week, I like Chambers' chances to take advantage of his steadily improving situation thereafter.

Just in time for the stretch run -- as promised, though it took a couple weeks longer than I predicted in the preseason -- Beanie Wells has emerged as the Cardinals' most dangerous tailback. Though Tim Hightower will remain the official starter for now, we all know who the real threat is now. Beanie should remain a valuable starter or flex option as the fantasy postseason approaches. Arizona's schedule is very favorable down the stretch.

Trent Edwards lost his job (again) to Ryan Fitzpatrick. And Dick Jauron was fired as the Bills' head coach. None of which raises the value of the struggling Marshawn Lynch or fading T.O. Though rumors are swirling that Mike Shanahan is interviewing for the job. That could raise everyone's value in the long term. Not this year.

The Ravens dumped K Steve Hauschka after another FG miss and XP block this weekend. Mike Nugent and Billy Cundiff have been auditioning for the job.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Week 10 column: Jones-Drew feels our pain

For the second consecutive season, I spent an NFL Sunday rotating through a handful of Las Vegas sports books. And as in 2008, it was plainly evident that there were just as many fantasy football players as gamblers in the house.

I saw guys wearing Steelers jerseys cheer each time Adrian Peterson scored. I watched grown men in Chargers garb groan when Michael Turner was helped off the field. And I was one of at least two dozen non-Jaguars fans who screamed at the screens when Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee at the Jets’ one-yard-line instead of easily scoring. I can assure you we weren’t lamenting that play’s impact on the betting line.

But you have to give MJD credit. In his post-game interview, he actually apologized to his fantasy owners for the play, saying he was instructed not to score so the team could run down the clock, and he had to do what was right for the Jaguars. How cool is that?

Sure, it doesn’t make up for the extra six points that I, and others, could have used this weekend. And it brought back painful memories of a similar play by Brian Westbrook a couple years ago that nearly sent me into convulsions. But Jones-Drew is a self-proclaimed fantasy freak who said he had himself in his own lineup Sunday, so it’s amusing to think that his fantasy self-interest might have prompted even a fleeting moment of remorse as he gave himself up on that play.

It’s also easier to forgive MJD because I read not long ago that he called Matt Forte and challenged him to raise his game, because he was killing him in one of his leagues. Can you imagine what the football “purists” thought when they heard that? Forte still has a way to go, but he’s clearly on the right track. Thanks, Maurice. Now, can you put in a call to Marion Barber, please?

Sunday also brought a rash of injuries to the running back position, so the waiver wires will be hot this week. LeSean McCoy and Ricky Williams are likely not available to those who’ve just lost Brian Westbrook (another concussion) and Ronnie Brown (sprained ankle), respectively; so we’ll focus on some lesser-known players whose stock just shot up overnight.


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

Jason Snelling, RB, Falcons. He could come in very handy, as Michael Turner’s high ankle sprain will undoubtedly sideline him for a game or more. Already getting some traction in fantasy circles prior to the injury, Snelling racked up 61 yards and a score after the elite rusher went down. Unlike Turner, Snelling contributes as a receiver, so he has extra value in point-per-reception leagues.

Bernard Scott, RB, Bengals. Cedric Benson could miss next week’s favorable engagement with the Raiders with a hip flexor, putting the rookie in position to shine against the team that just surrendered 103 yards and a TD to Jamaal Charles. The Bengals’ offensive line is far superior to the Chiefs’, so Scott’s short-term prospects would be encouraging if the starter can’t go.

Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks. If you saw Forsett pound the Cardinals’ defenders Sunday for 123 yards and a TD, you know the guy packs a mighty punch. With Julius Jones likely out for an extended period with a broken rib and possibly worse, Forsett, a good receiver as well, will likely play the lead role moving forward. He’ll have a tough assignment at Minnesota in Week 11, though, so don’t expect miracles right away.

Don't be fooled

Chris Simms, QB, Broncos. Kyle Orton will probably be a game-time decision this week after injuring his ankle in the first half of Sunday’s contest. Simms was 3-of-13 for 13 yards, plus an interception, in relief. Not too impressive, but not surprising, either. The journeyman hasn’t started a game since 2006 for Tampa Bay, and his fantasy heroics have been few and far between. Though he’ll get the first-team practice reps this week, he is unlikely to fare well against the Chargers in Week 11.

Jason Avant, WR, Eagles. When your team is playing from behind and your quarterback passes for 450 yards, you just might have a career game. Avant’s eight-catch, 156-yard outing certainly qualifies. But barring an injury to DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin, we’re unlikely to see another performance like that from the fourth-year wideout this season.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Sunday!

Greetings, Fools, from Las Vegas!

Long night...early morning...ready to start tweeting.

A few quickies before I do:

DeAngelo Williams is ACTIVE and starting.

Roddy White is active and starting, as expected.

Antonio Bryant is OUT today.

Bernard Berrian is active.

Lance Moore and K Garrett Hartley are OUT for the Saints.

Trent Edwards and T.O. are active, but not good starts today.

Justin Gage is out for the Titans.

Ladell Betts is active and will start for Portis today, though I think the Broncos will keep him pretty well bottled up.

That's it for the blog posts today. Follow my tweets ( for more updates as the games approach.

Good luck to all!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Week 10 Starters & Benchwarmers


You don’t need me advising you to start Drew Brees and Chris Johnson, or to bench JaMarcus Russell and Michael Clayton. 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 10.

Watch ‘em roll

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers vs. Bengals. He’s been very sharp of late, passing for at least two TDs in four of his last five games. With Carson Palmer as his opposite number and a stout run defense clogging the line, Big Ben will need to throw often against the NFL’s 25th-ranked pass defense. He’ll have plenty of success.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills at Titans. With Trent Edwards back under center, the Bills will lean heavily on their top tailback. Though he’ll be over-shadowed by Chris Johnson, Lynch should post his first 100-yard game of 2009, plus a score, against a unit that has been exploited regularly by opposing rushers.

Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins vs. Buccaneers. Only two teams give up more rushing yards or passing TDs per game than the Bucs. That’s great news for Miami’s dual-threat tailback, who should alternate big plays with Ronnie Brown in this cross-state showdown.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Jaguars. His production has been spotty of late, but with the extra week to plot against a feeble secondary, Edwards is primed for a prolific outing. The Jags get very little pressure on opposing passers, and they must focus first on the Jets’ league-leading rushing attack.

Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings vs. Lions. What’s not to like about the Vikings this week? Coming off a bye, at home, against a team that has allowed 19 passing TDs to date? Yahtzee! Harvin could score as a receiver and returner in this lop-sided affair.

More thumbs up: QBs Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Joe Flacco; RBs Ray Rice, Thomas Jones, Pierre Thomas, Jonathan Stewart, LeSean McCoy; WRs Anquan Boldin, Devery Henderson, Steve Smith (Panthers), Santonio Holmes.

Roll ‘em back

Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles at Chargers. Aside from a three-TD outburst against the Giants, McNabb’s production has been fairly pedestrian over the last four games. Traveling cross-country to face a secondary that has held opposing passers to an average of just 162 yards since their bye, he’s a risky bet to soar.

Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys at Packers. Green Bay’s defense has allowed only three rushing TDs this season. Though Barber has been solid, he gives up too many touches to his backfield mates, even around the goal-line, to be a strong play in this road affair.

Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins vs. Broncos. Denver’s defense was exposed by the Ravens and Steelers over the last two games, but they will rebound at home against this anemic offense. Though Betts will shoulder the load for the concussed Clinton Portis, he is unlikely to find much room to roam against a run defense that has still allowed just three rushing scores to date. Betts’ sore ankle won’t help.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars at Jets. It’s a scientific fact: David Garrard is incapable of throwing a TD pass on the road. Against the NFL’s second-toughest pass defense, his top receiver’s chances are even worse.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos at Redskins. You probably have to start him, but don’t be shocked if he disappoints in this one. His quarterback is struggling mightily, Marshall’s back has been hurting him, and the Redskins boast the league’s stingiest pass defense (160 net passing yards per game).

More thumbs down: QBs Kyle Orton, Matt Ryan, David Garrard, Trent Edwards; RBs LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Knowshon Moreno, Jamal Lewis, Kevin Smith, Ladell Betts; WRs Donnie Avery, Santana Moss, Jeremy Maclin.


Laveranues Coles, WR, Bengals at Steelers. The best way to score against Pittsburgh is through the air, and Carson Palmer is up to the task. The Steelers will be forced to double-down on Cedric Benson and Chad Ochocinco, which should give the suddenly relevant Coles plenty of opportunities to produce. Chris Henry’s loss should be Coles’ gain.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…neglects to check the weather reports before locking in your starting lineup. As we head into late November, blustery conditions will become a factor in many outdoor games, possibly including Green Bay this weekend. That often leads to fewer passes, more runs and erratic kicking. While inclement weather usually shouldn’t steer you away from starting your studs, knowing the conditions can help you make more informed decisions on your marginal players. Especially kickers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mid-week updates from around the NFL

First and foremost: DO NOT OVERLOOK THE THURSDAY NIGHTER! Bears-49ers kick off the '09 Thursday night schedule, which runs through Week 16. Don't be the bonehead who neglects to set his roster in time.

Lots of rumors flying around today about teams interested in Larry Johnson's services, including the Pats, Seahawks and Texans. If you still have LJ sitting on your bench, it might not hurt to hold onto him for a day or two, just in case he goes somewhere interesting. I'm not exactly sure where he could end up that would pique my interest, but you just never know, you know?

A few players sat out Wednesday's practice (Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo, TO, Colston) but at this point, none of their ailments seems likely to keep them out of action this weekend.

Clinton Portis, however, is another story. You can safely assume he will miss at least a game due to the severe concussion he incurred last week. Ladell Betts will get the start against a rapidly fading Broncos defense, which has been torched by Ray Rice and Rashard Mendenhall in consecutive weeks.

No telling whether Brian Westbrook will be back or not, but he's not only dealing with the after-effects of his concussion, but his ankle has been bothering him again, too. Looks like time is quickly catching up to him. LeSean McCoy will likely be the workhorse again this weekend.

Hopes are high in Oakland that Darren McFadden will be back from his knee surgery and that Chaz Schillens will finally return from his preseason foot injury. Fantasy owners, however, should not pin their hopes on either player.

Bengals WR Chris Henry is gone for the year with a broken arm. Not a big loss for fantasy owners, though, who can be forgiven for wasting a draft pick on him after his stellar preseason. At least he's not back in jail.

Brady Quinn is expected to re-claim the reins of the Browns' offense this week from the comically ineffective Derek Anderson. Of course, we've watched this movie before, so move on...nothing to see here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Week 9 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals -- Took a page out of Carson Palmer’s book and torched the Bears for 5 TDs, plus 261 passing yards with zero turnovers.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears -- Tried to keep up with Warner by passing for 369 yards and 3 scores, plus an interception.

Michael Turner, RB, Falcons -- Rumbled for 166 yards and 2 TDs.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans -- Soared again with 135 rushing yards, a pair of TDs, and 3 catches for 25 yards.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers -- Raced for 149 yards and 2 TDs, plus 2 catches for 12 yards.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers -- Soared in PPR leagues by catching 7 passes for 75 yards, while running for 83 yards and a score.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens -- Another PPR stud who caught 8 passes for 87 yards, to go along with 48 rushing yards and a TD.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts -- Scored as a rusher and receiver, and totaled 112 yards.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals -- Caught 9 passes for 123 yards and 2 TDs.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers -- His 5 catches produced 58 yards and two scores.
Hines Ward, WR, Steelers – Notched 7 catches for 44 yards and a pair of TDs.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars -- His 6 receptions totaled 147 yards and a TD.
Randy Moss, WR, Patriots -- Duplicated Sims-Walker’s feat.

Greg Olson, TE, Bears -- Reeled in 5 passes for 71 yards and all 3 of Cutler’s scoring strikes.
Dallas Clark, TE, Colts -- Caught a whopping 14 passes for 119 yards.
Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers -- He got 10 catches for 102 yards.

This was a great week to play against…

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons -- Threw 1 TD while passing for only 135 yards and an interception.
Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos – Passed for 221 yards without a score, and was picked off 3 times.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens -- Managed just 195 yards and no TDs, with 2 INTs.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos – Held to a whopping 3 yards on 5 carries.
Clinton Ports, RB, Redskins -- Ran just 4 yards before leaving with a nasty concussion.
Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys – Used sparingly, gained 10 measly yards.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers -- Grounded most of the game, with just 38 combined yards.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers -- Rushed for a paltry 22 yards, while 2 catches yielded only 8 yards.

Isaac Bruce, WR, 49ers -- One 3-yard catch won’t cut it.
Ted Ginn, WR, Dolphins -- What happens when he doesn’t break a kickoff return? One catch for 7 yards.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions -- Pulled down just 2 passes for 27 yards in his first game back from injury.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons -- Three catches generated just 27 yards.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles – Big-play threat held to a harmless 2 catches for 29 yards.
Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens -- His 3 receptions netted just 31 yards.
Marques Colston, WR, Saints -- Had a nice 45-yard catch, and that was it.

Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos – One reception led to a 3-yard gain.

I didn’t see that coming…

Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers -- Not only won his first career start, but passed for 205 yards and 3 TDs, ran for 20 yards, and had just one INT against a solid defense, no less.
Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs -- Switched teams and proceeded to catch 3 passes for 70 yards and 2 TDs.
Jason Hill, WR, 49ers -- Caught 4 passes for 50 yards and 2 TDs.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Week 9 column: Close encounters of the fantasy kind

As a nationally syndicated fantasy columnist, I am in constant contact with the subjects of my columns. As far as you know…

For example, JaMarcus Russell called to tell me he thought he had another “pretty good game” yesterday. I reminded him that this was his bye week, but he said “that’s not my fault” and hung up.

Kurt Warner sent an email thanking me for the show of support in Friday’s “Starters & Benchwarmers” column, following his five-interception implosion the previous Sunday. “You’re welcome,” I replied. “But would it kill you to give Beanie a red-zone carry once in a while?”

Smilin’ Miles Austin (above) left me a voice mail saying he liked the nickname I coined for him in last week’s column. “I hope it catches on,” he said. Then he asked if I thought “Killjoy Roy” could work for any of his teammates.

LaDainian Tomlinson texted last night asking me to pass along this message to his fantasy owners: “I just turned 30. What were you expecting?”

Eli Manning forwarded me a link to his hotel reservations in Miami for Super Bowl weekend and asked if I was interested. Said he had just booked a tee time in Arizona instead.

I sent a letter last Thursday to the Steelers’ club offices addressed to Fast Willie Parker. It came back with a “Return to Sender” stamp and a note that read “Nobody fitting that description works here.”

I called Steve Slaton to congratulate him on getting into the end zone against the Colts. “Thanks,” he said, “but can you believe Moats fumbled at the goal-line? Dude cost us the game!” That was weird.

Brett Favre called to say he had been pondering his future over the bye week and had made up his mind to return to the Vikings again next season. Then he just started laughing hysterically and said “Just kidding.”

Had a voice mail message when I woke up. “Hey, it’s Olsen. Thanks for chatting with Cutler for me. I think he gets it now.”

I called Jamal Lewis to congratulate him on a fine career and wished him well in retirement. “Thanks, but I’m not retiring until after the season,” he replied. “Oh, I thought…um...never mind.”

Got a tweet from Chad Ochocinco. Actually, I got about 60 of them. That guy needs a wife.

Steven Jackson called and asked if I had any good quarterback recommendations. “I didn’t know you played fantasy football,” I said. “I don’t,” he replied. That was awkward.

I tried calling, emailing, texting and even sent an instant message to Willis McGahee. Nothing. His neighbors said they haven’t seen him either, and his lawn hasn’t been mowed in weeks. Very disturbing.

Larry Johnson sent me a text this morning after he got the news of his release from the Chiefs. Unfortunately, I can’t print it here; but, for the record, Larry: No, I’m not.


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a perfect draft. But assuming you missed the mark at some point, tapping into the free agent pool can help significantly. Here’s a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else’s line-up.

Catch ‘em while you can

Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins. I’ve been preaching all season to Clinton Portis’ owners that they’d better have Betts waiting in the wings. My concern was primarily over Portis’ various leg ailments, but it was a scary-looking concussion that knocked the starter out of the game. Betts responded nicely with 93 combined yards and a TD; and though he draws a tough assignment against Denver next weekend, it’s safe to assume he’ll carry the load while Portis recuperates.

Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs. I wasn’t surprised to see the Chargers’ castoff reel in three catches in his first game as a Chief. But the two touchdowns, including one spanning 54 yards, were a shock. The nine-year veteran is clearly past his prime, but he could be worth a spot start in favorable matchups if he continues to build rapport with Matt Cassel.

Don’t be fooled

Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers. You have to like what he did in his first career start, racking up 201 yards and a trio of scoring strikes while leading the Bucs to their first victory of the season. But you don’t have to pluck him off the waiver wire. Rookie passers experience far more ups than downs – just ask Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford – and the talent surrounding Freeman is about as thin as it gets.

Jason Hill, WR, 49ers. With Vernon Davis finally making the most of his talents, Michael Crabtree still learning the pro game, and Alex Smith being, well, Alex Smith, San Francisco is fortunate to have two receivers worthy of fantasy consideration. Hill’s four receptions and two TDs were his first of the season in both categories, so steer clear of this shooting star.

James Jones
, WR, Packers. Sunday marked the first time this season that Jones caught more than two balls in a game. Though he now has three touchdowns on the year, his all-or-nothing production makes him too risky for most fantasy rosters. As long as Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are healthy, Jones should remain a free agent.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday morning updates

You know the "Endless Shrimp" meal at Red Lobster? Well, at some point, it has to end. And then, you feel like crap. But boy, they sure taste good!

But I digress... It's almost time for Week 9 action!

As always, look for my inactive tweets this morning. Here's what I have so far:

According to various media reports, it appears that Calvin Johnson, Devin Hester, Roddy White and Donald Driver will start as usual today.

Donald Brown and Pierre Garcon apparently will suit up also, but don't expect much from them.

Antonio Bryant (knee) and Muhsin Muhammad (knee) will NOT play.

Steve Slaton will NOT start today vs. the Colts, yielding that role to Week 8 sensation Ryan Moats. The two backs are expected to share carries today, and the hotter hand should get the majority of the plays. Predicting whose hand will be hotter is the rub. If you have both, Moats appears to be the better play.

More to come via Twitter. Good luck today!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Week 9 Starters & Benchwarmers

You don’t need me advising you to start Peyton Manning and Maurice Jones-Drew, or to bench Derek Anderson and Earnest Graham. 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 9.

Watch ‘em roll

Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals at Bears. Everybody’s down on the aging gunslinger following last week’s five-interception implosion. An owner in one of my leagues even went so far as to waive him! But Warner is a threat to top 300 yards and post multiple TDs – even without Anquan Boldin (ankle) in the lineup – against the same secondary that Carson Palmer torched for five scores two weeks ago.

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints vs. Panthers. Sure, he shares carries with both Mike Bell and Reggie Bush. But now that he is fully healthy again, Thomas is the most dazzling option in the Saints’ backfield. New Orleans will rack up points a-plenty in this lop-sided contest, and Thomas is bound to get an ample share.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs at Jaguars. While Larry Johnson nurses the head that was recently extricated from his rear end, Charles is in charge against the defense that just surrendered 228 yards and 2 TDs to Chris Johnson. Granted, Charles is no Johnson, but we’ll be happy with half that production.

Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks vs. Lions. Targeted by Matt Hasselbeck more frequently than prized free-agent T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Burleson has, not coincidentally, been the more productive wideout as well. In this tasty matchup, the unsung receiver is a primo play.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars vs. Chiefs. Though his quarterback is as unpredictable as they get, Sims-Walker had been money prior to last week’s debacle. He’ll rebound nicely at home against one of the league’s most generous secondaries.

More thumbs up: QBs Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb, Matt Cassel; RBs Brandon Jacobs, Brian Westbrook, Ryan Grant, Joseph Addai; WRs Steve Breaston, Dwayne Bowe, Calvin Johnson.

Roll ‘em back

Eli Manning, QB, Giants vs. Chargers. He’s thrown half as many TDs (three) as interceptions (six) over the last three games, likely due as much to the solid opposition as to his gimpy foot. San Diego’s secondary is yielding just 178 passing yards per game, so don’t expect Manning to burst out of his slump this week.

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions at Seahawks. He has been limited in practice by a shoulder injury incurred in last week’s game, and Maurice Morris is encroaching on his once-undisputed workhorse role. Seattle boasts a top-ten rush defense that has been improving of late and should have little trouble limiting Detroit’s stable.

Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins at Patriots. One of the prime beneficiaries of the Wildcat offense, Williams still plays second-fiddle to every-week-starter Ronnie Brown. New England has allowed just one rushing score all season and has had an extra week to prepare for this showdown.

Kevin Walter, WR, Texans at Colts. Though Owen Daniels’ loss could be Walter’s long-term gain, his short-term prospects are limited. Indy has allowed only three passing TDs all season, so only Andre Johnson holds promise this week.

Santonio Holmes, WR, Steelers at Broncos. Despite last week’s let-down, Denver’s defense remains one of the league’s stingiest. Holmes’ production has been up-and-down all year, and he hasn’t scored since Week 1. Reserve him on the road, if you can, in what should be a low-scoring affair.

More thumbs down
: QBs Kyle Orton, Matt Ryan; RBs Knowshon Moreno, LeSean McCoy, Cadillac Williams, Laurence Maroney; WRs Lance Moore, Antonio Bryant, Roy Williams, Nate Washington.


Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers vs. Titans. He has acclimated to his offense much more quickly than expected – with 11 receptions for 137 yards in his first two games – and the 49ers are giving him ample opportunities to produce. Facing a Tennessee secondary that has allowed a league-high 19 passing TDs, look for the rookie to make the first of many trips to the end zone as a pro.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…benches Aaron Rodgers over worries about his sprained toe and foot. Unlike the bloodied Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Rodgers should pillage the Bucs’ defenseless secondary despite a few flesh wounds.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mid-week updates from around the league

While I stand by my recommendation to pick up Ryan Moats this week -- especially if you're a Steve Slaton owner -- head coach Gary Kubiak has declined to indicate which back would start going forward. In fact, it sounds like a full-fledged RBBC at this point (including Chris Brown), as it's much more likely that Kubiak was sending a message to Slaton after his latest fumble rather than completely throwing in the towel on such an obviously gifted player. Moats had a career game against the Bills, but Slaton has several skins on the wall beginning with his stellar rookie season. And fortunately, fumblitis is a condition that can be cured.

Looks like another committee may be forming in Detroit, where Maurice Morris is encroaching on Kevin Smith's once-undisputed territory. Though his combined rushing and receiving stats were decent, Smith was generally underwhelming against the Rams on Sunday, while Morris looked stronger. I wouldn't bother using a roster spot on Morris, but Smith's owners might want to look for a way to trade him before his value deteriorates further. After all, the only thing worse than relying on a Lions tailback is relying on one who shares carries. Not to mention Smith is nursing a shoulder injury that kept him out of today's practice.

Edgerrin James was quietly released by the Seahawks.

Willie McGahee has disappeared from the Ravens offense. Look for him on milk cartons around the Baltimore area soon.

Jamal Lewis said he will retire after the '09 season. Funny, I thought he already had.

Brian Westbrook is expected to practice today and will probably be back in action against the Cowboys on Sunday.

Anquan Boldin is expected to miss Week 9 at Chicago with his ankle injury, according to the Arizona Republic. Hear that, Steve Breaston owners?

No telling yet about Megatron. I'm cautiously optimistic we'll see him back this weekend in Seattle, since he practiced fully with the Lions' first-team offense today.

Chris Chambers was dumped by the Chargers, and immediately picked up by the Chiefs. Though I certainly wouldn't recommend acquiring him, I won't be surprised if Chambers is starting opposite Dwayne Bowe within a few weeks.

Joel Dreessen will be Houston's starting TE for at least the next few weeks, following the season-ending injury to Owen Daniels and arthroscopic surgery just performed on rookie James Casey, who is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. Honestly, I have no clue if Dreessen has any kind of chemistry with Matt Schaub, so consider him the definition of a flier. For what it's worth, his annual reception totals since his 2005 rookie year are as follows: 5, 0, 4 (including 2 TDs!), 11 and 5.

After John Carney missed a FG in his second straight game, you have to think Garrett Hartley's return is imminent. If you own Carney, be prepared.

Billy Cundiff has been released, allowing Phil Dawson to resume his role as the Browns' lone kicker. Yeah, I what?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Week 8 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings -- Passed for 244 yards and 4 TDs, and once again went without a turnover.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers – Threw for 287 yards and 3 TDs, and ran for 52 yards in a losing effort.
Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets – Had the best day of his rookie season with 265 passing yards, 3 total TDs and no turnovers.
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys -- Passed for 256 yards and 3 TDs, plus 10 rushing yards and one fumble.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles – Threw 240 yards and a trio of scores.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans – Out-dueled MJD with his masterful 228-yard, 2-TD afternoon.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars – Made the most of his 8 carries, rumbling for 177 yards and 2 monster TDs.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears – Took advantage of the prime matchup by amassing 121 combined yards and 2 TDs.
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons – Looked like the ’08 version of himself, darting through the Saints for 151 yards and a score.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams – Rumbled for 149 yards and his first score of the season, plus 3 catches for 17 yards.
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints – Scored running and receiving, with 91 rushing yards.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers – Rushed for 87 yards and 2 scores.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers – Only had 56 yards, but a pair of TDs made his day special.

Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts – Though limited with a groin strain all week, he topped all receivers with 12 catches for 147 yards and a TD.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers -- Just five catches produced 142 yards and a score.
Ted Ginn, WR, Dolphins – Who needs to catch passes when you can return kickoffs for 100 and 101 yards in the same game?

Dolphins D/ST – Though they surrendered 25 points, they nearly offset that with Ginn’s two triple-digit kickoff returns, a fumble return TD by Jason Taylor, and 2 sacks.
Ravens D/ST – Had 2 sacks, one turnover, and a kickoff return score while holding the undefeated Broncos to 7 points.

This was a great week to play against…

Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos – Passed for 152 yards and no scores.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars – Kept his road woes going with a miserable 139-yard, 0-TD, 2-INT outing.
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans – His 268 passing yards were offset by a pair of interceptions, and he didn’t complete a scoring pass for the first time since Week 1.
Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals – Passed for a healthy 242 yards and 2 TDs, but turned the ball over a whopping 6 times.
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts – Held without a TD for the first time this season, though he still put up 347 yards.

Steve Slaton, RB, Texans – One of the day’s best bets caught 2 passes for 10 yards before losing another fumble and, possibly, his starting gig.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins – Ran for just 23 yards.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills – Rushed for just 43 yards against a soft Texans defense.
Ryan Grant, RB, Packers -- Limited to 30 yards and added 3 catches for 21 more.

Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos – No dramatic returns were there to offset his paltry 2 catches for 10 yards.
Donnie Avery, WR, Rams – Just one 15-yard catch against the toothless Lions.
Lance Moore, WR, Saints – Another bit performance in a big Saints win, with just 2 catches for 11 yards.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals – Limited to 3 receptions for 23 yards before aggravating an injury.
Torry Holt and Mike Sims-Walker, WRs, Jaguars – Combined for 4 catches for 26 yards between them.
Lee Evans, WR, Bills – Reeled in only 2 passes for 29 yards.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos – Underwhelmed with 4 passes for 24 yards.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Seahawks – Ditto for him.

Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos – One 9-yard catch on the day.
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans – Caught just one 22-yard pass before being lost for the year with a knee injury.

I didn’t see that coming…

Ryan Moats, RB, Texans – Subbed for the butter-fingered Slaton and busted loose for 126 rushing yards and 3 TDs, plus 2 receptions for 25 yards.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week 8 column: The Perfect Draft, with 20/20 Hindsight

Halfway through the 2009 fantasy season, are you kicking yourself for allowing Cedric Benson to slide by round after round? Did you cast your lot with the wrong Steve Smith? Have you hurled epithets in Larry Johnson’s direction that could get you suspended by the NFL?

Yes, dear reader, it’s time for our semi-annual exercise in self-flagellation, when we travel back two short months to examine what could have been had we made all the right calls during our preseason draft. We call it The Perfect Draft: Midseason Review.

As with our preseason edition, we start with a few key assumptions. First, we’re in a 10-team league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defense/special teams. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a zig-zag format, meaning Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew were not available to us in the first round. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. And finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2009 Fantasy Draft, we should have selected…

Round 1. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. Jaw-dropping performances in Weeks 2 and 8 give Johnson the edge over the steadier DeAngelo Williams. The lone bright spot on a miserable Tennessee team, only AP and Jones-Drew offered more first-round value.

Round 2. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts. He has topped 300 yards in all but one game and registered fewer than two TDs just twice. Though Drew Brees and Tom Brady’s overall statistics are comparable, they lack Manning’s consistency. Reggie Wayne has scored in all but one game as well, and was an equally grand pick in this round.

Round 3. Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins. The undisputed master of the Wildcat formation has had three multi-touchdown games and contributes as a receiver as well. A bona fide every-week fantasy starter, Brown excels despite sharing the load nearly equally with Ricky Williams.

Round 4. Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers. Second only to Wayne at the season’s mid-point, Philip Rivers’ favorite target has amassed 664 yards and five TDs, while generating at least 100 yards and/or a score in all but one game.

Round 5. Thomas Jones, RB, Jets. Perennially one of the most underrated players in the business, Jones keeps churning out yards and touchdowns. A threat to score from the one-yard-line or from 71 yards out (as he did in Week 6), he wasn’t the sexiest pick in this round. Just the best one.

Round 6. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles. All the second-year wideout does is make big plays, scoring on receptions of 54, 57, 64 and 71 yards, a 67-yard run, and an 85-yard punt return. That’s how you rack up fantasy points.

Round 7. Matt Schaub, QB, Texans. The knock on Schaub heading into the season was that he couldn’t stay healthy. So far, so good. Though he started and ended the first half of ’09 on sour notes, he proved to be an elite passer in between, with more yards and TDs (and interceptions) than Manning. Losing Owen Daniels – a better value in this round prior to his season-ending knee injury – could prove difficult for Schaub to overcome.

Round 8. Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals. Arguably the biggest steal of the draft, Benson has found new life in Cincinnati as the undisputed workhorse of his offense. Through seven games, Benson’s 720 rushing yards have already eclipsed his best season in Chicago and he has prospered even against some of the stingiest run defenses in the game.

Round 9. Donald Driver, WR, Packers. His partner, Greg Jennings, was taken six or seven rounds earlier, but Driver has been Aaron Rodgers’ more reliable target by far. Residing just outside the Top 10 fantasy ranks, the 11-year veteran still has plenty left in his tank.

Round 10. Eagles defense/special teams. You could have picked up the Saints or Broncos in free agency and gotten nearly as much production, but Philly boasts the top-ranked unit in most scoring formats.

Round 11. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers. Considered fumble-prone and lazy in the preseason, the second-year player silenced his critics with a dazzling coming-out party in Week 4. Mendenhall has been one of the most productive backs in the league ever since, while Willie Parker’s demise has been precipitous.

Round 12. Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings. With six TDs in five games, he has been consistent, if unspectacular. Though Daniels set the standard at the position over the first seven weeks, his loss opens the door for Shiancoe and others to excel in the second half.

Round 13. Brett Favre, QB, Vikings. Depending on when your draft was held, Favre could have been taken as high as Round 8 or gone undrafted altogether. This was the old man’s ADP, and what a value he has been, with 1,925 passing yards, 16 TDs and, get this, just three interceptions! You earn bonus points if you were prescient enough to start him over Manning and Schaub on Sunday.

Round 14. Steve Smith, WR, Giants. With a league-leading 53 receptions, “the other Steve Smith” has been one of the season’s biggest surprises. He’s been especially valuable in point-per-reception leagues.

Round 15. Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers. At the halfway point, Davis leads all tight ends with seven TDs. Long after most of us had written him off like a sub-prime mortgage, he is finally living up to the hype.

Round 16. Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys. Another player who was regularly ignored on draft night, Austin has been the darling of Fantasyland since his Week 5 breakout performance. After only three starts, he has catapulted into the Top 5 receiver ranks, and he appears primed for a dominating second half.

Round 17. Lawrence Tynes, K, Giants. The NFL’s leading kicker proves yet again that you can, and should, wait until the last round to fill this roster position. It helps that he has yet to serve his bye week.

So, how perfect was your draft?

To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a perfect draft. But assuming you missed the mark at some point, tapping into the free agent pool can help significantly. Here’s a look at players worth considering, and one who would look better in someone else’s line-up.

Catch ‘em while you can

Ryan Moats, RB, Texans. Though I’m not convinced the fumble-prone Steve Slaton has lost his job for good, Slaton’s owners shouldn’t take any chances, either. Moats made an emphatic statement Sunday with his 126-yard, three-touchdown performance, and seems destined for more carries – including those near the goal-line – at worst.

Fred Davis, TE, Redskins. Following the back-to-back losses of Chris Cooley and Owen Daniels, many owners will be scrambling for worthy proxies. While Daniels’ backups offer faint consolation, Davis stepped up impressively against the Eagles in Week 7 after Cooley went down. With an extra week to get familiar with his new starting role, Davis is worth a gamble.

Don’t be fooled

Ted Ginn, WR, Dolphins. Unless you think he’s going to keep pulling 100-yard kickoff returns out of his hat, Ginn does not belong on your roster. He lost his starting wideout job to Brian Hartline, and was shut out (again) in the receiving game on Sunday.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Week 8 Sunday morning updates

Happy Sunday, Fools!

As always, follow my tweets ( for game day inactives and other breaking news.

Here's what I'm hearing and reading so far this morning...

Brian Westbrook will be sitting out recovering from the severe concussion he incurred last week. LeSean McCoy remains a solid start in his absence.

Reggie Wayne should be good to go. I still like Austin Collie today.

Nothing official yet, but ESPN is reporting that Matthew Stafford will start while Calvin Johnson sits OUT today. As I responded to one Fool's question this morning, if Megatron suits up against the Rams, he knocks T.O. out of my lineup today. But it doesn't look that way now.

Andre Johnson and his bruised lung will play in Buffalo.

Mario Manningham is probably OUT today with his sore/separated shoulder, per ESPN. That's good news for Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks owners.

Jerricho Cotchery will be in the Jets' lineup, opposite Braylon. Expect Mark Sanchez to try to exploit the Dolphins' rookie cornerbacks today. But don't be surprised if one of those rookies takes one of the rookie QB's passes to the house.

Percy Harvin is good to go. Bernard Berrian probably isn't, which improves both Percy's and Sidney Rice's chances for success.

Good chance of showers today for the games in Green Bay, Baltimore and Philly.