Monday, October 31, 2011

The Perfect Draft 2.0 (a.k.a., What Could Have Been)

So, uh, how’s that Chris Johnson pick working out for you?

Still think Peyton Hillis was a steal in the third round?

Did you pick the wrong year to load up on Colts?

Yes, dear reader, it’s time for our semi-annual exercise in self-flagellation, when we reflect back two short months on what could have been had we made all the right moves during our preseason draft. Step right up for The Perfect Draft 2.0: Midseason Review.

As always, 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 was not available to us in the first round. Third, we’re selecting players based on their average draft position in multiple mock draft sites as of the end of August. And finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2011 Fantasy Draft, we should have selected…

Round 1. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles. If Shady’s superiority wasn’t clear before Sunday night’s beat-down of the Cowboys, it is now. McCoy has scored at least once in every game, and trails only Peterson (by a smidge) as the top back in Fantasyland. Yet Peterson has played an extra game. I can’t argue with picking Aaron Rodgers, either.

Round 2. Matt Forte, RB, Bears. Tough call here. Calvin Johnson is probably long gone. Tom Brady and Drew Brees are hard to overlook, as are Frank Gore and Greg Jennings. Forte gets the nod for his consistency and his impressive contributions as a receiver.

Round 3. Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers. Mr. Big Play hasn’t had an off game yet, and he’s reached the end zone in five out of eight weeks.

Round 4. Wes Welker, WR, Patriots. We passed on Brady, but his most dangerous receiver is a nice consolation prize.

Round 5. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills. We could wait until the sixth round to grab him, but why tempt fate? Jackson has been an absolute beast. We now boast three of the top five fantasy backs.

Round 6. Matt Stafford, QB, Lions. Again, we’re pulling the trigger early, but drafting with 20/20 hindsight gives us that luxury. Stafford has posted 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions while emerging as an elite fantasy passer.

Round 7. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers. Most owners held their noses when drafting Smith, a frequent malcontent who seemed light years removed from his glory days. Little did we know a rookie would lead him to his fountain of youth.

Round 8. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints. Though most of us expected Graham to climb the tight end rankings this season, few thought he’d dominate them like he has. As with Brady, we let Drew Brees slide by; but his favorite target is a good proxy.

Round 9. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals. We knew Green had the pedigree to be special. But teamed with a rookie quarterback in a lackluster offense, how much could we expect from this rookie wideout? Apparently, instant elite status.

Round 10. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. Another second-year sensation gives us the top pair of tight ends in the business.

Round 11. Ravens defense/special teams. Several units – including the young-and-hungry Lions and 49ers – also offer great value. But Ray Lewis & Company are still bringing the heat in virtually every significant category.

Round 12. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. He’d have a hard time starting on this roster, but Rodgers’ second-favorite receiver is clearly worthy of a Perfect Draft invitation.

Round 13. Darren Sproles, RB, Saints. Reggie who? Sproles has stepped into the multi-purpose role the Saints designed for Bush and showed him how it’s done.

Round 14. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys. As long as we’re playing with house money, let’s stash this rookie on our bench for his potential late-season run.

Round 15. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. If you were prescient enough to draft Newton, and gutsy enough to start him from Week 1, you are a true fantasy genius. Remarkably, the rookie taken by 2010’s most dreadful NFL team trails only Rodgers among fantasy quarterbacks. It helps that he is also his team’s best running back.

Round 16. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants. Cruz has performed as well as Hakeem Nicks while relegating Mario Manningham to fantasy irrelevance.

Round 17. John Kasay, K, Saints. As usual, several kickers offered excellent final-round value. An eleventh-hour replacement for the injured Garrett Hartley, Kasay has prospered in his mop-up role for the Saints’ prolific offense.

So, how perfect was your draft?

One consolation: If recent history holds, roughly half of these players will not be on our final Perfect Draft roster at season’s end. Hope abounds!


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

Javon Ringer, RB, Titans. If you had never played fantasy football before 2011, you’d have already dropped Chris Johnson in favor of his backup. Ringer is not just a promising handcuff; he could actually supplant the incredible, shrinking Johnson as the starter if he continues to out-perform him.

Antonio Brown
, WR, Steelers. Still available in more than half of all leagues, the second-year wideout was targeted a whopping 15 times Sunday. Brown also scored his first career touchdown. His stock should continue to rise even when the aging Hines Ward returns from his ankle injury.

Brent Celek, TE, Eagles. After getting off to an uncharacteristically slow start this season, Celek has scored in back-to-back games. He can help teams with bye-week and injury issues at the tight end position.

Don’t be fooled

Kevin Faulk
, RB, Patriots. As much as the Patriots struggled to move the ball Sunday, it’s hard to say whether Faulk’s prominent role in the offense was simply game-plan driven or a sign of things to come. But seriously, the guy is in his 13th season. How much tread could he possibly have left?

Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. Being the second-best wideout on the Seahawks is kind of like being the second-best singer in the Jackson 5. Who cares? Predicting when Baldwin – or any Seattle receiver, for that matter – will show up is a fool’s game. Don’t waste your time playing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday morning updates -- Week 8

Happy day-before-Halloween, Fools. I'm not proud to report that it turns out with a pillow for padding and a long grey wig, I can pass for a certain Cowboys coach at a costume party. Scary, I know...

Hope you and yours have a safe and fun time this weekend, too.

Now, on to the real news...

First, though the league management systems make it hard to screw these things up, it's another tough week for byes, with the Packers, Falcons, Bears, Jets, Raiders and Bucs getting the week off.

Meanwhile, a large contingent of non-bye week RBs should also be on your bench today due to injuries. Already declared OUT for Week 8 are Daniel Thomas, Jahvid Best, Willis McGahee, Mark Ingram and Felix Jones. And in case you missed yesterday's tweet, Tashard Choice has been released by the Cowboys.

Also ruled out early are Sam Bradford, Andre Johnson, Hines Ward and Lee Evans.

We'll know soon about several other players, including Peyton Hillis and Beanie Wells. Mike Tolbert hasn't practiced all week and is almost certainly going to be inactive.

Joseph Addai will probably suit up, but don't expect much from him as he continues to struggle with a bum hammy. If you have to play a Colt back, make it Delone Carter.

Bernard Scott is an intriguing start in place of the suspended Cedric Benson. The Seahawks' run defense is not as formidable as it was early on. Scott is a solid flex play this weekend. So is Marshawn Lynch on the other side of the field, assuming those dreaded back spasms don't act up again.

Moreno and Lance Ball will likely share carries today for Denver. Not crazy about either option, but Knowshon definitely gets the nod over Ball in PPR leagues.

Brandon Jacobs will be back today to cut into Ahmad Bradshaw's carries. That said, don't hesitate to start Bradshaw. Jacobs, on the other hand, is a risky play in his first game back in weeks.

It will be ugly for Cardinals RBs in Baltimore whether or not Beanie suits up. Don't even think about Alfonso Smith, Chester Taylor or LSH.

OK, that's it for now. I'll be tweeting (@ladd_biro) the inactives and other late-breaking news soon. Good luck, Fools!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Week 8 Starters and Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Drew Brees and Fred Jackson, or to bench Curtis Painter and Chad Ochocinco? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 8 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Eli Manning, QB, Giants vs. Dolphins. Miami has a league-worst two interceptions on the season, which is welcome news for the mistake-prone Manning. Also encouraging, only the Broncos give up more fantasy points than the Dolphins to opposing quarterbacks. Look for big yardage and at least two passing TDs for Manning.

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints at Rams. With Mark Ingram in jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game with a bruised heel, Thomas has an excellent chance to excel against the Rams’ pitiful run defense. While Darren Sproles continues to prosper in the role Reggie Bush squandered, there will be plenty of touches (including passes) left for Thomas to be a legitimate flex starter.

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins at Bills. It’s always dicey counting on one of Mike Shanahan’s backs; but with Tim Hightower gone for the season, Torain will surely be the workhorse against one of the NFL’s softest run defenses. (Won’t he?) Roy Helu will get his share of the carries, too; but Torain is a much safer fantasy play for now.

Nate Washington, WR, Titans vs. Colts. The Titans’ passing game was horrendous last week against the Texans, but the Colts are just the ticket for a nice rebound. Indy has surrendered an NFL-high 14 passing TDs, and Washington should have little trouble inflating that number against this porous secondary.

Torrey Smith, RB, Ravens vs. Cardinals. Arizona is susceptible to the long ball, which is Smith’s forte. Though he’s fizzled quite a bit since his Week 3 breakout game, this is a great week to take a chance on the rookie speedster, especially if you’re bye-week challenged.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton, Matt Schaub, Matt Hasselbeck; RBs Ahmad Bradshaw, Ryan Mathews, Daniel Thomas, DeMarco Murray, Delone Carter, Bernard Scott; WRs Marques Colston, A.J. Green, Anquan Boldin, Jeremy Maclin, Victor Cruz, Stevie Johnson.

Roll ‘em back

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills vs. Redskins. After a terrific start to his 2011 season, Fitzpatrick has been fairly pedestrian over his last three games, with just 636 passing yards, three TDs and three interceptions during that span. Washington boasts a league-leading 21 sacks and has yielded only five passing scores to date. Don’t expect much from Fitz in Toronto.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots at Steelers. Now that Danny Woodhead is healthy, the “Law Firm” is the senior partner in a three-headed backfield. Pittsburgh presents a tough challenge for New England’s committee, so consider another option over Green-Ellis this week.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers vs. Patriots. If you are blessed with the option of sitting Mendenhall this week, don’t hesitate. The Patriots are playing stout run defense, and the Steelers have been struggling to get their ground game in order. Look for another disappointing outing from Mendenhall.

Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings at Panthers. He has had very little time to practice with rookie QB Christian Ponder due to a rib injury, which caused the multi-purpose wideout to miss half of last week’s game. He’s a similar early-exit risk this week, which makes it even more unlikely that he’ll collect his first touchdown reception of the season.

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers vs. Browns. A minor foot injury is not expected to affect Crabtree, but elite cornerback Joe Haden will. Despite plenty of targets, Crabtree continues to struggle with Alex Smith, who relies more frequently on his tight ends, especially in the red zone. Cleveland’s pass defense is playing surprisingly well.

More thumbs down: QBs Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel, Alex Smith, Tim Tebow; RBs Brandon Jacobs, Mark Ingram, Knowshon Moreno, all Cardinals, Lions, Browns and Seahawks RBs; WRs Lance Moore, Steve Breaston, Sidney Rice, Kevin Walter, Brandon Lloyd, Eric Decker.

Taking a flier

Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers vs. Patriots. Hines Ward will be limited, if he plays at all, with a sprained ankle. That should lead to more work for Brown, who excelled against the Cardinals last week and has an equally favorable matchup with New England’s generous secondary on Sunday. Only Mike Wallace has been targeted more than Brown by Roethlisberger this season.

Don’t be the bonehead whomakes a desperation trade to cover for bye-week absences. I’ve seen, and been queried about, several lop-sided offers over the last three weeks, as savvy owners attempt to exploit a competitor’s momentary weakness. Biting on a short-term fix usually leads to deeper regrets later, and we’ve only just reached the mid-point of the fantasy season.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Week 7 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start

Drew Brees, Saints – Another brilliant outing, with 325 yards and 5 TDs, with nary a turnover.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Threw 3 TDs while torching the Vikings for 335 yards.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – Passed for 361 yards and a TD trifecta.

Arian Foster, Texans – His 234-combined-yard, 3 TD performance was exactly what his owners have been waiting for.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys – Ran for a record-setting 253 yards and 1 TD.
Darren Sproles, Saints – Ran for 88 yards and 1 TD, and caught 6 passes for 19 yards and a second TD.
Matt Forte, Bears – Ran for 145 yards and 1 TD and added 2 receptions for 38 yards.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings – Rumbled for 175 tough yards and a score.

Plaxico Burress, Jets – Scored 3 times on 4 catches for 25 yards.
Marques Colston, Saints – Nabbed 7 passes for 98 yards and a pair of scores.
Greg Jennings, Packers – Reeled in 7 passes for 147 yards and a TD.

Jimmy Graham, Saints – Continued his dominance with 6 catches for 54 yards and 2 TDs.

Josh Scobee, Jaguars – Hit 3 field goals over 50 yards, plus a shorty (22, 51 and two 54-yarders).

Chiefs defense – Scored twice on INT returns, amassed 6 total INTs and a sack, and held Oakland scoreless.
Texans defense – Amassed 2 sacks, 2 INTs (one of which was returned for a score) and held the Titans to 7 points.
Saints defense – Chalked up 3 turnovers, a sack, a pick-six and held Indy to 7 points.

This was a great week to play against

Philip Rivers, Chargers – His subpar season continues, with just 179 yards and 1 TD, plus 2 INTs.
Matt Hasselbeck, Titans – Just 104 yards and 1 TD, plus 2 INTs.
Matt Cassel, Chiefs – Tossed 2 INTs while passing for a meager 161 yards and 0 TDs.
Joe Flacco, Ravens – His 137 passing yards included a TD and an INT. He also lost 8 yards on a reception, for good measure.

Ryan Torain, Redskins – Lost 5 yards on 2 measly carries.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – Back spasms took him out of the game during warm-ups, but word came too late for his owners to adjust.
Darren McFadden, Raiders – Just 7 combined yards before injuring his foot.
Joseph Addai, Colts – Returned to action to collect 19 combined yards.
Earnest Graham, Buccaneers – Managed only 13 rushing yards (and minus-2 receiving) before exiting for the season with a torn Achilles.
Chris Johnson, Titans – Ran for 18 yards and caught 6 balls for 27 more. Ugh.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers – Continued to disappoint with 35 rushing yards.
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – Totaled 37 yards on the day.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals – Left with an injury after notching 42 rushing yards.
Daniel Thomas, Dolphins – Just 53 total yards against a mediocre Broncos defense.
Ray Rice, Ravens – Held to just 63 combined yards, and lost a fumble, on Monday night.

Nate Washington, Titans – Limited to a 10-yard grab.
Vincent Jackson, Chargers – Held to one 15-yard reception on Revis Island.
Percy Harvin, Vikings – Took 2 catches to get his 15 yards.
Miles Austin, Cowboys – Took a backseat with just 16 yards on 2 receptions.
Santana Moss, Redskins – Just 17 yards on 2 catches before leaving with a broken hand.
Eric Decker, Broncos – His 21 yards on 2 passes did little to suggest he’d be the man now that Brandon Lloyd is gone.
Santonio Holmes, Jets – Overshadowed by Plaxico, with 2 catches for 24 yards.
Sidney Rice, Seahawks – Caught 2 passes for 38 yards.
Colts WRs – Reggie Wayne had 3 for 36 yards; Pierre Garcon had 3 for 31.

Ben Watson, Browns – The popular bye-week sub caught a 5-yard pass.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lousy QB play tarnishes an otherwise golden era

I’ve heard several commentators refer to this as the “golden age” of NFL quarterbacking, or some hyperbolic variant of the same theme. I don’t think they’re watching the same games I am.

To be sure, it doesn’t get much better than Drew Brees’ five-touchdown performance on Sunday night. We are obviously witnessing two of the all-time greats in Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Michael Vick can be spectacular, Ben Roethlisberger has some serious skins on the wall, and only a neck injury is keeping Peyton Manning from continuing to re-write the record books.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, an unusually large contingent of young, old and downright incompetent quarterbacks has managed to tarnish this so-called gilded age.

On Sunday, Charlie Whitehurst and Colt McCoy combined to put up 273 passing yards, zero touchdowns, two interceptions and nine measly points for two teams. Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer teamed up for 177 yards, six interceptions and a goose egg while making Raiders fans yearn for the glory days of the Jason Campbell era.

Philip Rivers, Curtis Painter, A.J. Feeley and four Matts (Moore, Hasselbeck, Cassel and Stafford) looked like amateurs. For all but five minutes, Tim Tebow looked worse.

Holy pick-six, Batman! This can’t be as good as it gets.


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

Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings. The rookie played well enough to beat perhaps any other team not led by Aaron Rodgers. Though his 219-yard, two-touchdown debut was marred by two costly interceptions, Ponder showed enough swagger and accuracy to suggest that much better days lie ahead.

Michael Bush, RB, Raiders. Bush is among the best backups in the game, as he showed with his 111-total-yard effort in a blowout loss after McFadden left with a sprained foot. Though the Raiders are heading into their bye week, Bush is still a wise handcuff for McFadden’s owners.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos. Just when you thought it was safe to give up on Moreno, Willis McGahee goes out and fractures his hand. We don’t yet know how much time McGahee will miss; but Moreno is suddenly relevant again. That said, Lance Ball is also in the picture; and the biggest touchdown poacher of them all, Tebow, will limit Moreno’s upside as well.

Evan Moore, TE, Browns. Need bye-week help at the tight end position? With both Ben Watson and Mohamed Massaquoi suffering concussions in Sunday’s game, Moore could again become a frequent target. That assumes, of course, that McCoy gets his act together.

Don’t be fooled

Kregg Lumpkin, RB, Buccaneers. If his not-exactly-flashy name doesn’t excite you, Lumpkin’s play in relief of the injured Earnest Graham won’t help. With Graham lost for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon, Tampa Bay is praying that LeGarrette Blount will be ready to return after the team’s Week 8 bye. If he’s not, the team will likely bring in outside help rather than rely on Lumpkin.

Alfonso Smith, RB, Cardinals. He took over after Beanie Wells sprained his knee in the second quarter, but managed just 17 yards, including a short touchdown plunge. We’ve seen this movie before and gave it two thumbs down. With the Ravens up next, Smith is not even a short-term option; especially with LaRod Stephens-Howling also in the mix, primarily as a receiver. Wells could miss up to two weeks.

Tim Hightower, RB, Redskins. We haven’t gotten official word yet, but all signs point to a season-ending knee injury for Hightower. You can safely drop him to make room for free-agent help.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos. I’d like to get excited about Thomas’ potential, since he was clearly Tebow’s favorite target Sunday. But Denver’s 2010 first-round pick is perpetually injured, and he hasn’t yet earned a starting job over Eric Decker and Eddie Royal. Unless Tebow continues to lock onto him, there aren’t enough (accurate) passes to go around in this offense to make Thomas a consistent contributor.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday morning updates -- Week 7

Greetings, Fools. Just got breakfast in bed for my birthday (a day late, but we were crazy busy yesterday), so life is good.

Let's get on to the news.

AJ Feeley will lead the Rams against Dallas, while Bradford sits with his high ankle sprain. That's bad news all the way around for the Rams, who won't score as much as the Cardinals did against the Rangers last night. Sit everyone except Steven Jackson, who probably won't be so great either.

Kyle Boller gets the start for Oakland while Carson Palmer shakes off the rust. No surprise here. Look for a lot of Darren McFadden -- and maybe even more work from Michael Bush -- today.

In case you hadn't heard, Tim Tebow gets his first start of 2011 in Miami today. Not a bad place to get his feet wet.

Jackie Battle will be the lead back for KC against the Raiders. He's a decent flex start for the desperate. I still like the Chiefs' passing attack better in this one.

Peyton Hillis is OUT for the Browns today. Montario Hardesty will be the starter for Cleveland against a solid Seahawks run defense. Hopefully you have better options, because Hardesty has looked downright mediocre so far.

It will likely be a three-headed monster in the Redskins backfield today, with Ryan Torain seeing the bulk of the carries. That said, if Hightower or Helu get the "hot hand," Torain could be watching from the sidelines.

Joseph Addai (hamstring) will probably suit up for tonight's game against the Saints, making everyone in the Colts backfield (including Carter and Brown) even worse plays than usual.

Maurice Morris will start over Jahvid Best today. The news just keeps getting worse for Best, as rumors suggest he could be lost for the season due to concussion issues.

No Andre Johnson today. Julio Jones also is inactive.

Antonio Gates will be back today. Though they are saying he will be limited with his injured foot, he's still a better tight end play than 90% of your other options.

Looks like Dave Rayner will kick for the Raiders this afternoon, if Janikowski is declared inactive as expected.

That's it for today. Inactive reports coming via Twitter (@ladd_biro) next.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Week 7 Starters and Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Arian Foster and Greg Jennings, or to bench John Beck and Roy Williams? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 7 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs at Raiders. With an extra week to prepare and coming off a terrific performance against the Colts, Cassel can help those with injury and bye-week conundrums. He’ll have to offset his team’s running deficiencies, and Oakland’s secondary has surrendered a league-worst 12 passing TDs.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks at Browns. Lynch ran well in the weeks prior to Seattle’s bye, and he now has the backfield virtually to himself. He’ll be leaned on heavily against one of the NFL’s softest run defenses.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys vs. Rams. Sure, the Cowboys are a lousy rushing team, and Tashard Choice will take some carries; but the Rams give up more rushing yards (163 per game) than any team in the league. In a week when so many fantasy studs will be idle, Murray offers decent upside as a bye-week fill-in.

Greg Little, WR, Browns vs. Seahawks. The rookie was just a slip away from the end zone last week, but he should stroll in Sunday against Seattle’s young and injury-plagued secondary. Colt McCoy will need to pass often to prevail in this matchup.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts at Saints. Not only has Garcon supplanted Reggie Wayne as the Colts’ leading receiver under Curtis Painter’s watch, but he’ll be facing a Saints secondary that’s just as generous with the passing TDs as Oakland. Indy will likely abandon the run early while trying to keep pace with Drew Brees & Company.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Stafford, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler; RBs Earnest Graham, Beanie Wells, Ryan Torain, Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews, Mark Ingram; WRs Marques Colston, Brandon Marshall, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson.

Roll ‘em back

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens at Jaguars. With zero TDs and two interceptions over his last two games, you could suggest Flacco is due for a rebound. Or you could say he shouldn’t be trusted until he finds his mojo. Against Jacksonville’s decent secondary, I’m not taking any chances.

Maurice Morris, RB, Lions vs. Falcons. Jahvid Best will miss Sunday’s contest following last week’s concussion; and rumors are swirling that he could be shelved for the rest of the year, given his concussion history. Morris is the next man up, but he’s been mediocre at best this season. He’s an option against Atlanta’s solid run defense for only the most desperate owners.

Browns RBs vs. Seahawks. Peyton Hillis is in jeopardy of sitting out this weekend with a bum hamstring. Montario Hardesty will see more action in any event; but it’s hard to believe either back will find success against Seattle’s defensive front.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Rams at Cowboys. Lloyd may be the missing piece to the Rams’ struggling passing attack, but it will take him time to get acclimated. He may not even have the benefit of playing, much less practicing, with Sam Bradford, who could miss Sunday’s game due to his high ankle sprain.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders vs. Chiefs. I realize Carson Palmer is all the rage, but it would be fairly miraculous for him to play well Sunday after such a long layoff. Heyward-Bey is a downfield threat, but it’s been years since Palmer has thrown a good (read: accurate) long ball. Give all Oakland wideouts a rest.

More thumbs down: QBs Sam Bradford, Kevin Kolb, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer; RBs Jackie Battle, Shonn Greene, Willis McGahee, Delone Carter, DeAngelo Williams; WRs Jacoby Jones, Jason Hill, Sidney Rice, Malcom Floyd, Plaxico Burress.

Taking a flier

Steve Breaston, WR, Chiefs at Raiders. He had a monster game prior to the bye, and he has a good opportunity to stay on a roll against a weak secondary. Dwayne Bowe will draw the lion’s share of attention, giving Cassel plenty of reason to look Breaston’s way often.

Don’t be the bonehead who…assumes Antonio Gates (foot) won’t play on Sunday. He has looked good in limited practice time so far this week, so his arrow is finally pointing up again. He’ll be a game-time decision, most likely; but there are precious few tight ends worth starting ahead of Gates if he’s active.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Week 6 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Passed for 310 yards and 3 scores, with 1 INT, and ran for 15 yards.

Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants – Ran for 104 yards and a TD hat trick, plus 2 catches for 26 more yards.
Michael Turner, Falcons – Rumbled for 139 yards and 2 TDs, and an 8-yard catch.
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – Collected 146 yards and a TD.
Frank Gore, 49ers – Raced for 141 yards, including a 55-yard score.
Fred Jackson, Bills – Ran for 121 yards and a long TD, plus 5 catches for 47 yards.

Marques Colston, Saints – Caught 7 passes for 118 yards and a TD.

Jets defense – Held Miami to 6 points, scored on a 100-yard INT return, added 2 more turnovers and 4 sacks.

This was a great week to play against

Jason Campbell, Raiders – Passed for just 52 yards and lost a fumble before breaking his collarbone and being lost for the season.
Rex Grossman, Redskins – Bad Rex returns, with 143 passing yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs.
Eli Manning, Giants – Threw for 292 yards but no scores.
Matt Schaub, Texans – Limited to 220 yards and 1 TD.

Redskins RBs – Tim Hightower was active but didn’t touch the ball, Ryan Torain ran for just 22 yards, and Roy Helu combined for 17 total yards.
Peyton Hillis, Browns – Just 14 rushing yards before leaving with a hamstring injury.
Felix Jones, Cowboys – Combined for 14 rushing and 19 receiving yards before leaving with an injury.

Denarius Moore, Raiders – Caught a 9-yarder and lost 3 yards on his only carry.
Victor Cruz, Giants – Limited to 12 yards on 2 receptions.
Roddy White, Falcons – Just 2 catches for 21 yards.
Robert Meachem, Saints – Caught a 23-yard pass.
Santana Moss, Redskins – Held to 38 yards on 2 catches.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles – 3 catches for 46 yards won’t cut it.

Vernon Davis, 49ers – His 2 receptions totaled 8 yards.
Owen Daniels, Texans – His 2 catches amounts to 13 yards.
Jermichael Finley, Packers – Caught a 20-yard pass.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – Only 29 yards on 3 catches.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Coaches spark controversy, even in Fantasyland

In one of my leagues, our commissioner decided to try out a new option offered by the league-management site to add a head coach to our rosters. Each team win yields seven points, with a loss registering a goose egg.

I wasn’t in favor of this tricked-up option, but a collective shrug from the rest of the guys allowed the commish to institute the change.

The first challenge presented itself in the draft, since it’s awfully hard to determine the proper draft position for a head coach. So I decided to trigger a run on the position by selecting Bill Belichick at the top of the 10th round. So far, so good.

But we almost had an unexpected controversy on our hands yesterday, and it had nothing to do with “Handshakegate” between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz. Or on Mike Shanahan’s decision to sit Tim Hightower after declaring him active and signaling that he would start.

Instead, it centered on Saints coach Sean Payton, who suffered knee and leg injuries after a freak sideline collision. The Saints went on to lose to the Bucs; but had they won, should Payton’s owner have been awarded the points, even though the coach watched the second half from the locker room?

I say no. Hey, if the league chooses to add a silly position like coaches to the mix, they should be treated like every other player. Those who lost Jason Campbell in the second quarter Sunday weren’t allowed to add Kyle Boller’s stats to his total. Why should a coach be any different?

Now, on to the next challenges. Who am I going to pick up this week while Belichick is on his bye? And who do I drop to make room for his replacement?



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

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys. He was recommended in this space weeks ago, after Felix Jones suffered his shoulder injury. Now that Jones has added a high ankle sprain to his list of woes, Murray again merits a pickup. Especially if Tashard Choice is traded before Tuesday’s deadline, which would be odd now that Jones is on the shelf again.

Earnest Graham, RB, Buccaneers. We found out later than normal last week that LeGarrette Blount would miss time with a knee injury, so alert owners have already snapped up the versatile Graham. But he’s still available in roughly a third of leagues, and he proved Sunday that he can shoulder a heavy workload. Blount could be out until Week 9.

Fred Davis, TE, Redskins. Davis’ value has been hindered both by the presence of Chris Cooley and mediocrity at the quarterback position. Well, eliminating one of two ain’t bad. Cooley fractured his hand and finger and will be out indefinitely. New starter John Beck will likely find it easier to connect with Davis than his wideouts.

Don’t be fooled

Montario Hardesty, RB, Browns. Hardesty racked up a combined 53 yards after Peyton Hillis suffered a hamstring injury. But he dropped a few passes and was generally unimpressive against the Raiders’ below-average run defenders. Hillis’ injury does not appear too serious (he returned to the field briefly in the fourth quarter), and the tough Seahawks and 49ers rush defenses are on tap next for the Browns.

Donald Brown, RB, Colts. Those of us who invested in Brown last season after Joseph Addai injured his neck know better than to trust him. Not only did he lose his backup role to rookie Delone Carter in the preseason, but Indy’s running game is even worse this year with Peyton Manning watching from the sidelines. Let someone else waste their roster space on the first-round bust.

Devin Hester, WR, Bears. Hester is arguably the greatest return man in NFL history. But as a receiver, he’s as unreliable as they get. His 16 career punt and kickoff return scores in the regular season exceed his 13 career receiving touchdowns. To make matters worse, he suffered a chest injury late in Sunday night’s game.

Raiders receivers. Now that Campbell has been lost for the season with a broken collarbone, all bets are off for the Oakland passing attack. Boller might just be the worst backup quarterback in the league, and his presence could have a debilitating effect on the entire team. You can drop or trade your receivers, or pray that Oakland signs free agent David Garrard. Don’t count on the team convincing Cincinnati to trade Carson Palmer.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday morning updates -- Week 6

Happy Sunday, Fools. It's a great day for fantasy football (which is true of any day, really; right?). Let's get to it...

I know I shouldn't have to say it, but I will anyway: Sit your Cardinals, Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Seahawks and Titans. It's their bye.

We'd like to have more clarity on Daniel Thomas, who is still listed as questionable for Monday night's contest. But it is what it is. My read on the situation is that he will be in the starting lineup, but there's always a risk that his hamstring will flare up during the game. He has a good matchup against the Jets' soft run defense, though. Consider him a decent flex play, with some risk.

Joseph Addai didn't travel with the Colts to Cincinnati. Looks like Delone Carter will be the starter, with Donald Brown filling in between the 20s. Carter is just a so-so flex start today, given the sorry state of Indy's running game.

Cleveland head coach Pat Shurmur said Peyton Hillis will get a heavier workload this week against the Raiders. That should be music to every Hillis owner's ears.

Tim Hightower (shoulder) will be active today, and some are suggesting he may even start. Wouldn't that be classic Shanahan? Just as we're all led to believe that Torain is the man, he pulls his Shanahanigans again. Sorry're on your own with this one.

Inactives coming up next. Follow me on Twitter (@ladd_biro).

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Week 6 early updates

Here are a few snippets from my Sporting News column posted yesterday.

Ben Roethlisberger tossed five touchdowns on an injured foot last week. Now he says he feels "a lot better." I guess that means we should start him against the Jags.

Tony Romo is not yet completely healed from his rib injury, so he will wear a vest and take another shot from Dr. Feelgood before Sunday's game. But I wouldn't hesitate to rely on him against the Patriots' vulnerable secondary. Especially since he'll have both Miles Austin and Dez Bryant back on the field.

Rashard Mendenhall and his hamstring are no longer listed on the team's injury report. Though you still have to wonder if he is sufficiently healed, he is expected to reclaim his starting job this weekend. Get him back in your lineup.

Dolphins rookie Daniel Thomas fully expects to return to the backfield this weekend, but the Monday night start presents some risk. That said, he's worth a shot against a struggling Jets run defense that has given up a league-worst eight rushing TDs.

Figure at least one more week of rehab before Andre Johnson (hamstring) returns to the field.

Greg Jennings tweaked his groin in practice this week, but only people I am competing against this weekend should bench him.

Rookie sensation Julio Jones won't be suiting up on Sunday. Harry Douglas will take his starting spot, but look elsewhere if you need a fill-in.

Derrick Mason is now a Texan. Sadly, this has no relevance for fantasy players.

The Denver Post is reporting that Brandon Lloyd could also be moved before Tuesday's trade deadline, and that Carolina and Tennessee are the most likely candidates. As a Lloyd owner in two leagues, either destination would suit me just fine. But I'll go ahead and cast my vote for New England, if it's all the same to you. It's time to ocho-seis Chad Ochocinco anyway.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week 6 Starters and Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and Ray Rice, or to bench Donovan McNabb and Donald Driver? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 6 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets vs. Dolphins. Sanchez has taken a lot of heat for the Jets’ slow start, but he has also thrown a pair of touchdowns in four of five games this season. On Monday night, the Dolphins’ sieve-like secondary and non-existent pass rush should let Sanchez pick his targets with ease. 300-plus yards and three TDs are well within reach.

Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys at Patriots. While I don’t expect him to surpass 100 rushing yards, Jones is a big part of the Cowboys’ passing game as well. The combination effect will make him a quality start against a Patriots defense that is vulnerable to dual-threat backs.

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins vs. Eagles. You can never be sure with Mike Shanahan, but Torain appears to be the feature back du jour in Washington. What we do know is that Philly is giving up 140 yards per game on the ground (third worst in the NFL), and Tim Hightower is still limited by a shoulder injury. Torain should perform admirably Sunday.

Earnest Graham, RB, Buccaneers vs. Saints. Though it’s not official yet, reports out of Tampa suggest LeGarrette Blount has a fairly significant knee injury that could keep him sidelined through the Bucs’ Week 8 bye, and possibly beyond. Graham is the next man up, and he has a track record of performing well when given the opportunity. He’s a great flex starter this week against a suspect Saints run defense.

Victor Cruz, WR, Giants vs. Bills. Not convinced about Cruz yet? He’s caught 17 passes for 369 yards and 3 TDs over the last three weeks. Sure, some have been a bit fluky; but the second-year sensation has overtaken Mario Manningham as the Giants’ No. 2 wideout. He should keep up the good work against Buffalo’s shaky secondary.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Cam Newton; RBs Peyton Hillis, Ahmad Bradshaw, Cedric Benson, James Starks, Darren Sproles; WRs Stevie Johnson, A.J. Green, Pierre Garcon, Jordy Nelson, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Santonio Holmes, Santana Moss.

Roll ‘em back

Matt Schaub, QB, Texans at Ravens. Schaub was limited to 138 yards and a single TD against the stout Pittsburgh pass defense two weeks ago, when Andre Johnson was hurt. He should have another rough go against a Ravens secondary that has surrendered just three passing scores to date. Making matters worse, Schaub is dealing with a sore shoulder.

Jahvid Best, RB, Lions vs. 49ers. It’s tough to sit someone with the hot hand; but in the two games prior to last weekend’s explosion, Best was just okay. Consider giving him a rest if you have other viable options Sunday, as he’ll be facing a defense that has yet to cough up a rushing score all year.

Delone Carter, RB, Colts at Bengals. Though the rookie is expected to get his chance to shine in Joseph Addai’s (hamstring) absence, it won’t be smooth sailing. He’ll have to share carries with Donald Brown, and Cincinnati’s run defense is pretty tough.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins at Jets. With six teams on bye, you may have little choice but to take your chances with Marshall. But you will probably be disappointed with his performance on Revis Island. And do you really want to rely on a guy whose stated goal is to do something so desperate that he gets ejected in the second quarter?

Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers vs. Saints. Is he in the midst of a dreaded sophomore slump? Or is his struggling quarterback to blame? Either way, at this point you’d be starting Williams on reputation alone. There’s no evidence to suggest the Josh Freeman-Williams connection will get back in sync this weekend.

More thumbs down: QBs Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Rex Grossman, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman, Jason Campbell; RBs Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Grant, Brandon Jacobs, Reggie Bush, Isaac Redman, Tim Hightower, BenJarvus Green-Ellis; WRs Denarius Moore, Mario Manningham, Austin Collie, Jacoby Jones, all 49ers and Jaguars wideouts.

Taking a flier

Greg Little, WR, Browns at Raiders. Coming out of their bye week, the Browns have declared their rookie wideout a starter, which is surprising only in that it took this long. Little is, by far, the most physically gifted receiver on the team. He should be Colt McCoy’s favorite target, especially against a Raiders pass defense that has surrendered a league-high 10 passing scores. Little could come up big if you have bye-week issues.

Don’t be the bonehead whowaits until Tuesday to address your Week 7 lineup. This will be the Mother of All Bye Weeks, with the Patriots, Eagles, Bills, Giants, 49ers and Bengals all taking breathers. Planning ahead now by making a strategic free-agent pickup or two could save you from hitting the waiver wire in a panic later.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Week 5 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – Sore foot and all, Big Ben cranked out 228 passing yards and a record-tying 5 TDs.
Matt Cassel, Chiefs – Passed for 257 yards and 4 TDs.
Eli Manning, Giants – Responsible for 4 turnovers, but passed for 420 yards and 3 TDs too.
Michael Vick, Eagles – His 4 INTs stung, but 315 yards passing with 2 TDs and 90 yards on the ground made up for the miscues.

Adrian Peterson, Vikings – The beast trounced the Cards with 122 yards and 3 TDs, all in the first quarter.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots – Carried 27 times for 136 yards and 2 TDs, and caught a 13-yard pass.
Fred Jackson, Bills – He rumbled for 111 yards and a TD and led his team in receiving with 6 passes for 85 yards.
Jahvid Best, Lions – Ran for 163 yards, including an electrifying 88-yard TD scamper.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – Reeled in 7 catches for 128 yards and 2 TDs, one of the highlight-reel variety.
Pierre Garcon, Colts – Continued to bond with Curtis Painter, hauling in 5 passes for 125 yards and both of his TD throws.
Steve Breaston, Chiefs – Also nabbed 2 TDs with his 4 catches for 50 yards.
Hines Ward, Steelers – Showed he’s not ready for retirement just yet, with 7 catches for 54 yards and two trips to the end zone.
Victor Cruz, Giants – Caught 8 passes for 161 yards; none more exciting than his juggling 68-yard TD reception.
James Jones, Packers – Pulled down 5 passes for 140 yards and a score.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – He got 130 yards and a TD with his 5 receptions.

Vernon Davis, 49ers – Posted 2 TDs along with his 3-catch, 39-yard day.

Nick Novak, Chargers – Stayed perfect on the season with 5 field goals (24, 28, 32, 35 and 51 yards) and 2 extra points.

49ers defense – Produced 3 turnovers, 3 sacks and a TD while holding the Bucs to 3 points.

This was a great week to play against

Kyle Orton, Broncos – May have squandered his last opportunity, passing for 34 yards and an INT before giving way to Tim Tebow.
Kevin Kolb, Cardinals – Threw for 232 yards without a score, plus 3 turnovers.
Matt Hasselbeck, Titans – Passed for a pedestrian 262 yards and 1 TD, plus an INT.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers – Couldn’t get it done on the left coast, with just 187 yards passing, 2 INTs and no TDs.
Matt Ryan, Falcons – Threw 2 INTs against just 167 yards and 1 TD.

Joseph Addai, Colts – Managed just 25 combined yards before exiting with a hamstring injury.
Ryan Grant, Packers – Returned to the lineup, but only combined for 24 yards.
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers – Ran for 20 yards and caught a 13-yard pass.
Cedric Benson, Bengals – Notched a paltry 53 yards against the Jags.
Darren McFadden, Raiders – Just 68 combined yards.

Eric Decker, Broncos – Somehow lost 4 yards on 2 receptions.
Nate Burleson, Lions – Just a 6-yard catch to show for starting opposite Megatron.
Jacoby Jones, Texans – With Andre Johnson out, reeled in a whopping 9-yard pass.
Johnny Knox, Bears – Just 17 yards on 2 catches.
Jordy Nelson, Packers – It took him 3 catches to amass 17 yards.
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos – Made one 20-yard catch.
Percy Harvin, Vikings – Ran for 12 yards and caught an 11-yard pass.
Julio Jones, Falcons – Did a little better than Harvin with 17 rushing and 16 receiving yards.
Mike Williams, Buccaneers – Only 28 yards on 4 catches, and lost a fumble.
Stevie Johnson, Bills – His four catches went for 29 yards.
Lance Moore, Saints – Just 30 yards on 3 catches.
Vincent Jackson, Chargers – Left Denver with 3 catches and 34 yards.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers – Managed but 36 yards on 2 balls.
Sidney Rice, Seahawks – Posted 38 yards on 4 receptions.

Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars – His only catch went for 6 yards.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unheralded receivers steal the spotlight, and the points

Fantasy scores were down virtually across-the-board this weekend, thanks in part to the onset of the dreaded bye weeks. But a quick glance at some of Sunday’s top performers also sheds light on the statistical downturn.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis out-scored his quarterback. Darren McFadden played second fiddle to Darrius Heyward-Bey. Brandon Lloyd racked up a measly 20 receiving yards which, remarkably, was 24 more than his counterpart, Eric Decker.

Matt Cassel connected on four touchdown passes, for crying out loud.

Meanwhile, very few of us own such wideouts as Doug Baldwin, Victor Cruz, James Jones, Steve Breaston or Jason Hill; so starting them was out of the question. In fact, that would have made about as much sense as Hank Williams, Jr., debating metaphysics with Stephen Hawking. Or a 12-year-old, for that matter.

Week 5 served as a reminder that every lineup position can make a difference in a tight contest. I certainly wouldn’t have bet that DeAngelo Williams would provide the winning margin in one of my leagues, and the margin of defeat in another. Countless players were burned when Rashard Mendenhall was declared active, then stood on the sidelines the entire game.

Consider this just the latest example of the often random nature of the fantasy gods. They’ll smile on you one week, then kick you in the hammy the next.


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

Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos. Forget what you saw of his mediocre passing on Sunday and recall his impressive play of late 2010. Heading into the Broncos’ bye week, Tebow could very well emerge as the team’s starter over the uninspiring Kyle Orton. If nothing else, you know the young gun will score as a rusher; something he’s done in every game in which he’s seen meaningful action.

Jackie Battle, RB, Chiefs. Consider this the most unenthusiastic recommendation possible. Battle emerged Sunday from the morass that is the Kansas City backfield with 140 combined yards. But consider that the fifth-year player nearly doubled his career production in the process. Any starting tailback merits a fantasy roster spot, but Battle is an unlikely hero. And he’s heading into a bye.

Delone Carter, RB, Colts. We expected the rookie to compete for a starting role by midseason, and he could get the nod earlier now that Joseph Addai has suffered a hamstring injury. If Addai misses multiple weeks, Carter will be a decent flex play. But he’ll still split carries with Donald Brown, who is viewed as the better option on passing downs.

David Nelson, WR, Bills. He and Donald Jones have essentially split the No. 2-wideout duties in Buffalo since Roscoe Parrish was lost for the season. Now that Jones has been sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury, Nelson has a chance to distinguish himself opposite Stevie Johnson. But Ryan Fitzpatrick will need to get his mojo back first.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals. With touchdowns in three of the first five games, Gresham won’t be flying under the radar much longer. Still available in the majority of leagues, the second-year player is developing a special rapport with Andy Dalton. Only A.J. Green has been targeted more.

Don’t be fooled

Alex Smith, QB, 49ers. Every season, Smith has a stretch of games that raises the eyebrows of fantasy owners. Some even take the step of adding him to their rosters, either out of desperation or a hunch that he might finally be on the verge of fulfilling his lofty expectations. And then, he turns into Alex Smith again. In an era when 300-yard passing games have become the norm, Smith has posted two since the 49ers made him the top draft pick of 2005. Sunday was just the sixth three-touchdown game of his career.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders. It was fitting that Heyward-Bey had one of his finest performances in the game following Al Davis’ death. After all, Davis surprised everyone by using the seventh overall pick in 2009 on the speedy wideout with the butter-fingered reputation. Don’t let nostalgia fool you into investing in the underachiever.

Devery Henderson, WR, Saints. Now that Marques Colston and Lance Moore are healthy, the consistently unreliable Henderson has disappeared on cue. With one 11-yard reception (on two targets) over the past two weeks, it’s time to give him the heave-ho.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday morning updates -- Week 5

Good morning, Fools. It's raining in Dallas! Great for our area, bummer for the Rangers. But we'll take it any way we can get it.

Now, on to the news...

First, as you'd better know by now, six teams are off this week. Make certain you're benching your Ravens, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Rams and Redskins.

Big Ben will play today on his injured foot. He's a somewhat risky start against the Titans. Mendenhall will be a game-time decision. If he sits, Redman will be the man.

Ryan Grant will be back in the starting lineup after sitting out a week with a bruised lung. He should be full-go, so he's a better option than James Starks if you have to choose.

Beanie Wells is still listed as questionable, but is fully expected to play. We'll know soon enough, as the Cards play in the early round. Which is nice.

Don't expect Brandon Jacobs to be available today. Big game for Bradshaw coming.

Danny Woodhead will probably be inactive, leading to more touches for Stevan Ridley.

It will be interesting to see if Jacoby Jones (who will play despite his knee) and/or Kevin Walter step up in Andre Johnson's absence today. They rarely have before, and guessing which one has a better performance in any given week is virtually impossible.

Seattle's Mike Williams will sit this one out with a concussion.

Vincent Jackson will be a game-time decision with his bum hammy, but is expected to play according to the Chargers beat writers. They think he'll get at least as much action as he got last week, which was enough to produce very nicely. He'll face Champ Bailey, who could be a little rusty after sitting out since Week 1.

No Antonio Gates again today.

Aaron Hernandez will be a last-minute decision. Even if he starts, I'd be wary. I'd expect him to be worked back in slowly.

90% chance of thunderstorms in Jacksonville today. With two rookie QBs facing off (Dalton, Gabbert), the passing games could be very sloppy in this one.

That's it for now. Inactive reports coming out shortly. Make sure you're following along (@ladd_biro). Good luck, Fools!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Week 5 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Matt Forte and Calvin Johnson, or to bench Blaine Gabbert and Devin Aromashodu? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 5 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers at 49ers. Freeman has been a big disappointment this season, underscored by his dismal touchdown-to-interception ratio. But he showed some spunk last week, and he heads west to play a squad that defends against the run much better than the pass. Trust Freeman to deliver in this one.

Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers vs. Titans. There’s a very good chance both Rashard Mendenhall (hamstring) and Mewelde Moore (ankle - out) will miss this game, leaving the Steelers’ backfield in Redman’s capable hands. Though Tennessee is stout against the run, Redman should get plenty of opportunities with a gimpy Ben Roethlisberger (foot) directing the offense.

Mark Ingram, RB, Saints at Panthers. In a week when six teams are on bye, your options are probably limited. Though the rookie is still sharing time with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, Ingram is a good flex play this week against the second-worst rush defense in the league. He should get at least one goal-line plunge among his 15-20 touches.

Julio Jones, WR, Falcons vs. Packers. With 17 receptions for 242 yards over the past two weeks, the highly touted rookie has been out-performing fellow wideout Roddy White. All Jones is missing is his first TD, which should come this week against the NFL’s 31st-ranked pass defense.

Plaxico Burress, WR, Jets at Patriots. Burress has alternated good and bad outings, but actually out-ranks teammate Santonio Holmes in fantasy production thus far. Both are great starts this week against a New England secondary that has been consistently torched.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez, Kevin Kolb, Cam Newton; RBs Fred Jackson, Joseph Addai, Cedric Benson, Ryan Mathews, Jonathan Stewart; WRs Stevie Johnson, Eric Decker, Mike Williams (TB), Jordy Nelson, Percy Harvin, A.J. Green.

Roll ‘em back

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans at Steelers. As he marches toward his Comeback Player of the Year award, Hasselbeck will encounter the occasional set-back. Heading into Pittsburgh to face-off with the league’s stingiest pass defense, this looks like one of those occasions. The Titans will surely lean on Chris Johnson to gash a suddenly vulnerable Steeler run defense.

James Starks, RB, Packers at Falcons. With the rejuvenated Ryan Grant fully healed from his bruised kidney, and Aaron Rodgers poaching scoring runs, there may not be enough carries for Starks to make a difference this week.

Shonn Greene, RB, Jets at Patriots. Though Rex Ryan says he’s committed to running more, his tailbacks don’t seem to be cooperating. While the Patriots aren’t exactly impenetrable, Greene is hard to trust in a game that could easily turn into a shoot-out early.

Sidney Rice, WR, Seahawks at Giants. Rice has performed admirably since returning in Week 3 from his shoulder injury. But he’ll face his stiffest test yet against a Giants secondary that has been playing very well of late. Traveling cross-country won’t help the Seahawks’ cause.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants vs. Seahawks. Though he is fully recovered from his concussion, he may have lost his starting job to Victor Cruz due to poor route running. If Eli Manning doesn’t trust him, you shouldn’t either.

More thumbs down: QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Kyle Orton, Tarvaris Jackson; RBs Knowshon Moreno, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, DeAngelo Williams; WRs Kevin Walter, Deion Branch, Denarius Moore, Chad Ochocinco, Devery Henderson.

Taking a flier

Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Chiefs at Colts. The Chiefs are starting to get their moxie back on offense; and while McCluster hasn’t produced much to date, he’s an important part of both the running and receiving games. Against a banged-up Indy defense, the dual-threat back can be a decent flex pinch-hitter for those with bye/injury problems.

Don’t be the bonehead whocontinues to carry dead weight on your roster. Incredibly, Jamaal Charles is still owned in more than half of all ESPN leagues. Kenny Britt resides on slightly fewer benches. Chad Henne and Danny Amendola are the latest players headed to injured reserve. Don’t be lazy…make room for someone who actually plays.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Week 4 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start...

Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- Had an epic game with 408 passing yards and 4 TDs (plus an INT), with 2 more TDs and 36 yards rushing.
Cam Newton, Panthers -- Ran for 35 yards and 2 TDs when not passing for 374 yards and another score, plus an INT.
Mike Vick, Eagles -- Passed for 416 yards and 2 TDs and added 75 yards on the ground.

Beanie Wells, Cardinals -- Had a career day with 138 rushing yards and 3 TDs.
Matt Forte, Bears -- Rumbled for 205 yards and a TD, plus 4 catches for 23 yards.
Arian Foster, Texans -- Finally got rolling with 155 yards and a TD run, plus 3 receptions for 11 yards.
Michael Turner, Falcons -- Ran for 70 yards and a pair of TDs.

Pierre Garcon, Colts -- Made the most of his 2 receptions, going for 146 yards and a pair of TDs.
Wes Welker, Patriots -- Caught 9 passes for 158 yards and 1 TD.
Calvin Johnson, Lions -- It took a while, but Megatron finally got going on an 8-catch, 96-yard day with, naturally, 2 TDs.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants -- Hauled in 10 passes for 162 yards and a score.
Eric Decker, Broncos -- Scored twice on his 5 receptions, plus 56 yards.

Jimmy Graham, Saints -- Caught 10 balls for 132 yards and a TD.

Ravens -- Scored on 2 fumble returns and an INT return, plus 2 sacks, while holding the Jets offense to 3 pts.
Jets -- Tried to keep pace with Baltimore with an INT return TD and kickoff return score, plus 2 sacks.

This was a great week to play against...

Mark Sanchez, Jets -- Passed for just 119 yards without a score, but with 4 turnovers.
Joe Flacco, Ravens -- Threw for only 163 yards with 2 turnovers and no TDs.
Jay Cutler, Bears -- Let Forte do all the heavy lifting, with just 102 passing yards and an INT, without a scoring strike.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills -- Only 199 passing yards against the Bengals.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers -- Passed for just 206 yards and 1 INT without a TD.
Matt Schaub, Texans -- Settled for 138 passing yards and 1 TD while Foster carried the load.

Shonn Greene, Jets -- Held to 23 yards rushing.
Tim Hightower, Redskins -- Totaled 28 yards while yielding the lead role to Ryan Torain.

Torrey Smith, Ravens -- Last week's rookie sensation was a 1-yard dud this week.
Mike Sims-Walker, Rams -- Hauled in a 6-yard reception.
Marques Colston, Saints -- Caught an 8-yard pass in his first action since Week 1.
Mario Manningham, Giants -- Just a 10-yard catch on the day.
Anquan Boldin, Ravens -- Got 28 yards on his only reception.
Malcom Floyd, Chargers -- His 2 receptions totaled just 26 yards.
Jacoby Ford, Raiders -- No catches and just a 30-yard run.
Andre Johnson, Texans -- Just 36 yards on 4 catches before going down with a hamstring injury.

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots -- Caught a single 15-yard pass.
Jermichael Finley, Packers -- Just 3 catches for 28 yards.

Looking for a few good byes

It seems we’ve just gotten our starting lineups settled, and already we have to start juggling them with the onset of the 2011 bye-week schedule.

From this weekend through Week 8, six teams will take a breather. In Weeks 9 and 11, four teams will be off. For some reason, the byes get a bye in Week 10.

Last season, the open dates started and ended a week earlier; but only two weekends featured as many as six resting teams. This year’s schedule, with four consecutive weeks of six-team byes, could raise roster shuffling to an art form.

We’ll get our feet wet this weekend with a modest slate of inactives from the Ravens, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Rams and Redskins. Frankly, Ray Rice’s owners may be the only ones significantly inconvenienced in Week 5.

The schedule gets a little tougher in Week 6, before packing a wallop in Week 7, when the Patriots, Eagles, Bills, Giants, 49ers and Bengals enjoy a respite.

Of course, the bye-week scratches only worsen the toll that injuries have already taken on fantasy rosters. If we’re not careful, some of us may be starting Blaine Gabbert and a pack of gypsies later this month.

The moral of this story? Don’t wait until the weekend to evaluate your starting options. Moreover, it’s not too early to plan ahead for a week when your lineup will be more significantly taxed. Waiting until the last minute will only narrow your options.


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

Matt Hassebeck, QB, Titans. I was reluctant to recommend him after Kenny Britt bit the dust; but Hasselbeck barely missed a beat against a Cleveland secondary that has been surprisingly stout. Still available in the vast majority of leagues – despite being the eighth-ranked fantasy QB in the land – Hasselbeck can be the answer to your bye-week and injury conundrums.

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins. True to form, head coach Mike Shanahan has started shaking up his running back corps. While none of us should be shocked that Tim Hightower’s role as the Redskins’ lead back was short-lived, Ryan Torain seemed the odd man out while rookie Roy Helu was being eased into the rotation. Yet after his 135-yard, one-touchdown effort Sunday, the oft-injured Torain heads into his bye week as the team’s featured rusher. For now, anyway.

Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots. When in doubt, grab a Patriot. The rookie third-rounder out of LSU has been steadily worked into the backfield rotation, mostly at the expense of the diminutive Danny Woodhead. On Sunday, Ridley racked up 97 yards, including a 33-yard scoring scamper. He’s worth a bench spot for now, in the event he emerges as the team’s featured back. BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ role is hardly set in stone.

Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers. If Rashard Mendenhall misses time with his hamstring injury, Redman will share carries with fellow backup Mewelde Moore. Both have played sparingly this season, but Redman is the preferred handcuff as he is the more likely candidate for goal-line carries. With Ben Roethlisberger (foot) also in jeopardy of sitting out a game or two, healthy runners will be even more integral to Pittsburgh’s success.

Don’t be fooled

Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys. Since he entered the league in 2007, Robinson has failed to live up to expectations; which is why he’s no longer catching passes in Atlanta or St. Louis. Now, just as he could be on the verge of shedding his underachiever label, Dallas heads into its bye week. When they return, Miles Austin should be back on the field, and Robinson will once again be an afterthought.

Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones, WRs, Texans. You’d think one or both of these guys would step up if Andre Johnson misses time with his hamstring injury. Yet neither caught a pass on Sunday, and both have been remarkably inconsistent and unreliable throughout their careers. Arian Foster and TE Owen Daniels will have to pick up the slack.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday morning updates -- Week 4

Good morning, Fools! It's another beautiful morning (in Dallas anyway). Let's get to the news you can use for fantasy dominance.

Mike Vick will start as usual today. It sure would be nice if he could finish the game too. We'll see...

The situation in Indy just gets worse, with Curtis Painter getting the start at QB Monday night. It's hard to feel good about anybody in that air attack, including Reggie Wayne.

Daniel Thomas did not fly with the team to San Diego and is OUT today due to the re-aggravation of his hamstring. Reggie Bush makes for a decent flex start now, with Lex Hilliard and maybe even newly acquired Steve Slaton getting in on occasion.

Ryan Grant is out with his bruised kidney, opening the door to James Starks to prove he deserves the lead role in the Packers' backfield.

Arian Foster is expected to reclaim his workhorse duties today against the Steelers. Start him and hope he doesn't pull up lame again.

Looks like Beanie Wells will play today, but don't expect a full complement of carries. If you have another decent option at RB, sit Beanie and his bum hammy.

As expected, Tim Hightower's time as the primary tailback in Washington is quickly running out. He was almost benched last week, and Roy Helu has looked better. Now we're learning that Ryan Torain (remember him?) will start getting carries. True to form, Mike Shanahan is making a mess out of his backfield, for fantasy purposes anyway.

Frank Gore will be active today, but Kendall Hunter is starting. I don't like either guy today, frankly. The Niners aren't running well even when Gore is healthy.

Vincent Jackson (abdomen) should play today, but Antonio Gates (foot) probably won't. Don't hesitate to start V-Jax against Miami's putrid pass defense.

Mario Manningham is expected to return to the starting lineup from his concussion, which means Victor Cruz is of dubious value. Hakeem Nicks will play, and is a must-start.

Last week's other breakout WR, Torrey Smith, will get another chance with Lee Evans sitting out.

Looks like Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) will also be suiting up, which is a much different story than we were hearing earlier in the week. You have to start him, given how well he's performed lately.

Dez will play today. I don't like his chances, as you know. Miles Austin is out. Laurent Robinson will start in his place, which tells you all you need to know about Kevin Ogletree.

Kellen Winslow should play Monday night. It's about time for him to have a decent game, no? This week could be the ticket.

OK, it's time for the inactive reports. Make sure you're following along on Twitter (@ladd_biro).