Guest Post: 2009 NFL preview from a fantasy outsider

This guest post comes to Fantasy Football Fools from Eric Amzallag of sports pick site UnlockedSports.com. Rather than stay in our fantasy bubble this season, I thought taking a look at the playoff picks from a relative fantasy outsider would be a nice jump start to the conversation — since, inevitably, my Super Bowl and playoff picks would be largely influenced by what players I have invested in this season.

I think Eric makes some interesting calls that should get us talking, but keep in mind that Eric sent these to us this offseason before much of the news had been made.

Feel free to share your own playoff predictions on this glorious Sunday of football in the comments. We’ll give greater cred to those who post before their picks destroy opponents in their opening game this week. Now on with the show…

Now that football season is quickly approaching, fans, poolers and bettors are eager to gather as much information as they can to make some informed sports picks in the upcoming season.

Every single year, we seem to come into the NFL season with all eyes on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to win it all. There is nothing wrong with that. The Patriots always have a great team surrounding arguably the best quarterback of our time.

But times are a-changing, and this season we will see some new teams in the running for the Lombardi trophy. With a relatively painless offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to repeat and have a good chance to do so.

Don’t count out these playoff contenders from the AFC:

  • Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning! With Peyton behind center the Colts will always be contenders.
  • Oakland Raiders: The AFC West is the worst division in football right now, and the Raiders are the only team with promise and a good, young core of players. This year will be the season they break out of the funk.
  • Buffalo Bills: Although some people disagree, getting T.O. was huge for the Bills. Not only will their offense be hard to stop with two star receivers, a promising young quarterback and Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, but they are well-coached and poised to have a breakout season.

The NFC is another beast altogether. The Arizona Cardinals will be good but not as good as they were last season. The Dallas Cowboys may have dropped some baggage, but this year will be a make-or-break season for Tony Romo.

In the NFC, watch for these teams to make an impact this season:

  • Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White! ‘Nuff said.
  • Dallas Cowboys: Do or die! If the Cowboys are going to stay in the title contender picture they will need to come together. This season will be the one that defines them, and I think they will come through.
  • San Francisco 49ers: Kind of a sleeper pick here, but I am sticking with it for one reason, Mike Singletary’s first full season.
  • Chicago Bears: Although the defense was suspect last season, this year everything is going to come together for Chicago. Not only will the defense get back to its stingy ways, but with Jay Cutler in the offense, this team could be scary!

So those are Eric’s picks, made right around the time of the NFL draft this offseason. Who do you think is going to win it all this year? You can check out more from Eric and UnlockedSports.com.

As always, the comments are yours.

A Fool and His Money – Week 1

Week 1 is my favorite week to make bets. You get to trust your gut more than any other week of the season, and you feel extremely smug when your predictions come true.

But the first games are also full of questions. Which teams developed chemistry over the offseason? Who will exceed expectations, and who will disappoint? There is money to be made if you can answer these questions correctly.

STEELERS (-6) over Titans
Will the Titans’ defense be the same without Albert Haynesworth? I have no qualms with the Titans’ defense, but I do have problems with trusting Kerry Collins. I predict Vince Young will get his chance for redemption at some point in the season.

Cowboys (-6) over BUCS
Are the Cowboys serious NFC contenders this year? They need to stomp teams like Tampa Bay if they are.

Lions (+13) over SAINTS
Did Kevin Smith really guarantee the playoffs this year? Even Lions’ players and fans can be optimistic this time of year.

FALCONS (-4) over Dolphins
Which one of these teams will take a step back this year? My vote is for the one that loses this game.

TEXANS (-4.5) over Jets
Have you met Mario Williams yet? Rookie QB Mark Sanchez is about to meet him for first time. This is the year the Texans need to finish over .500. People have been talking about this team for a couple of seasons — now show us something!

BENGALS (-4) over Broncos
Does anybody know what to expect from either of these teams? I think the Bengals have more potential so I’m going with them.

PANTHERS (+1.5) over Eagles
Why isn’t anyone talking about the Panthers this year? They had the best fantasy player in the game last year and the best record in the NFC.

Jags (+7) over COLTS
Has any team been more consistent this past decade? No Bob Sanders or Marvin Harrison this season. I like the Colts to win, but seven points is just too much for me.

Vikings (-4) over BROWNS
Is Brady Quinn still a loser? The answer is always yes. This line seems suspiciously low to me, but I’m going to take the bait and pick the Vikings.

Chiefs (+13) over RAVENS
Who can turn down 13 points? Not me — at least not during the first week when we still have a lot to learn about teams.

Redskins (+6.5) over GIANTS
Is this Jason Campbell’s last chance? If he doesn’t step up this year, I think it’s time for the Redskins to start looking in a different direction.

SEAHAWKS (-8.5) over Rams
Was last year a fluke? Everyone knows these teams were decimated by injuries last year, but we need to see who will bounce back quicker. I personally expect an NFC West division title for the Seahawks.

49ers (+6.5) over CARDINALS
Who doesn’t love Mike Singletary? From his future Coors Light commercial quotes to his obsession with hills, I want to believe the 49ers can take a step forward this year.

PACKERS (-3.5) over Bears
Do you believe the hype? A lot of people are very high on both these teams in the NFC. I don’t forget which players and teams wronged me last year, and Jay Cutler is at the top of that list. I bet he hangs out with Brady Quinn in the offseason.

PATRIOTS (-10.5) over Bills
Is Brady back? Normally, I don’t like giving double-digit points in the first week, but I believe the Patriots will try and turn this into a statement game by running up the score.

Chargers (-9) over RAIDERS
Could anything the Raiders do surprise you at this point? Stupid draft picks, violent head coaches, dumb trades. I wish I could bet the over on L.T. getting more than 30 fantasy points this week.

Season Record
Nick: 0-0-0

Take a shot at $1000 in SpendOnLife’s Survivor Pool Challenge

Unless you’re Bill Gates, $1,000 probably sounds pretty good to you, and the cash could be yours this season if you can pick a winner every week.

Following up our own 9/9/09 contest which wraps up tonight — get your comment in now!Spend On Life sent me some information about the football survivor challenge they’re running this season with a grand prize of $1,000.

You can read all about the Eliminator Football Challenge at Spend On Life, but in short, it’s a free-to-enter football survivor competition in which you’ll select one team each week to win their game straight up. Once you’ve selected a team, you won’t be able to use them the rest of the season.

The competition will be hosted on ESPN — the password is “creditcard1″ — but to be eligible for the money, you will have to leave a comment over at Spend On Life with your ESPN username, an email address and who referred you — in this case, that’d be Fantasy Football Fools — so that you can collect your winnings at the end of the season.

Free shots at $1,000 are hard to pass up, and with the small number of people entering this contest, we all have a good chance of winning. You may regret not joining in on the fun if your fantasy season dries up in Week 8.

Here’s a full play-by-play on how to get in on the action…

It’s easy, just follow these steps below for your chance at $1000:

Step 1: Register a username at ESPN.com if you don’t already have one.

Step 2: Join our group, SpendOnLife using the password creditcard1. Only one entry allowed per person.

Step 3: The rules of the Eliminator Challenge are simple: Predict one winning team each week from all regularly scheduled NFL games. You can’t pick the same team to win twice during the season. So choose wisely! There’s no point spread, you’re simply picking winners. Participants will be ranked according to ESPN’s point system (not SpendOnLife.com).

Step 4: To be eligible for the prize money, you must post a comment below that includes the following information:

  • Your ESPN username
  • How you heard about our Eliminator Challenge
  • Enter your e-mail address in the e-mail field of the comments section. (To protect your privacy, don’t include your e-mail address in the comment itself). We will contact the winner via e-mail.

$1000 will be given to the winner according to the ESPN  rankings. (Prize money will be split, in the case of a tie). It’s like the lottery, except way cooler because it’s free and involves football.

Easy enough? After you enter, feel free to start trash talking your fellow Fantasy Football Fools readers in the comments below.

Week 1 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: The “Are we there yet?” Edition

The kickoff cometh! In just a few hours, the NFL will return to that magic box in my living room and all will be right with the world. In the meantime, it’s time to make sure you’ve got your best fantasy football roster forward.

Much like our waiver wire recommendations have been shortened up to get with the times, I’ve taken the liberty of consolidating our start or sit feature, Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders, into a more compact version of its 2008 self. I’m focusing on just a handful of players that you may be on the fence about starting each week.

If you have questions about other players on your roster or whether you should give these alternatives the nod over your current starter, submit your questions in the comments. Our shortened features should open the comments up for more discussion, more Q&A and, of course, more cowbell.

Now back to this week’s good-looking starters…

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs
I might as well put my fantasy money where my roster spot mouth is. I have Rice on plenty of my teams this season, and rather than wait to see what you have in him this year, I’m all about jumping him into your starting lineup immediately. Kansas City won’t know what hit them.

Last season, the Ravens could run over any team in the NFL, and I expect them to do the same in this matchup. While LeRon McClain and Willis McGahee could be lurking in the wings to steal some touchdowns, the Chiefs’ defense should give Rice at least a handful of opportunities to break a big play.

Others receiving votes:

  • Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos: Another sleeper with plenty to like this week in Palmer’s return
  • Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers had a weakness for tight ends last season
  • Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos: I just doubt the Broncos defense this much
  • Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots: He’s the guy for Buffalo until Lynch returns. How good can New England’s defense be after losing all those veterans?
  • Almost every Saint you can find vs. Detroit Lions: It’s a party, and all the fantasy players are invited

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hard to sit your first-round running back right after drafting him, but Johnson should be limited this week in the Titans’ debut against the defending Super Bowl champs. I like my running backs to have a shot at the end zone, especially a guy like “Every Coach’s Dream.” LenDale White should steal any short-yardage chances, and I don’t expect there to be many breakdowns in the Steelers’ defense.

The Super Bowl champs are rarely upset in their opening game, and I am sure the Steelers will control the clock. Unless you are lacking in the running back department — or you just like torturing yourself — try someone who has a bit more upside this week. Play Chris Johnson only if your alternative is Larry Johnson or Jamal Lewis.

Others receiving votes:

  • Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans: Much like Johnson, Holmes should be bottled up in a low-scoring contest
  • Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland Browns vs. Minnesota Vikings: Very little chance he shows any more signs of life in this one…
  • Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans vs. New York Jets: Glad you’re back to full health, now dodge Jets for four quarters! Schaub’s risky this week.
  • All your Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens: Until Matt Cassel is 100 percent, the Chiefs can only play at 25 percent. No likey.

For more start or sit recommendations this week, read up at FootballDocs, Fantasy Football Xtreme, Fantasy Football Oasis (one of the more detailed out there), Fantasy Football Goat, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog and Fanhouse’s Week 1 Wake-Up Call.

Also, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win free Dominator Service from Top Fantasy Football by commenting on yesterday’s post.

As always, the comments are yours.

On the Wire: Quick Week 1 Pickups and Sleepers

It’s time…

I’m almost giddy now that I can finally write up a few sleeper grabs that may have gone undrafted in your leagues this season. In less than 24 hours, the 2009 NFL season will be upon us. Are you ready? Probably not, but that’s why you’re doing your homework. Consider this your Week 1 bailout.

For the sake of being more easily absorbed in this 24/7, twittered news cycle, I’m tightening up the weekly “On the Wire” and making it a little more rapid fire — less bulky. If you don’t find what you crave in this handful of player mentions, leave a comment, and we’ll discuss. That’s what we’re here to do.

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
If no one drafted Ray Rice in your league, you should go pick him up immediately. Actually, first, you should slap yourself, and then you can go get Ray Rice off that waiver wire. Rice was a popular sleeper pick in the offseason, but he’s been climbing up draft boards all preseason, especially now that he’s officially the Ravens’ starting running back.

Anyone who hasn’t either missed their chance to draft him or secured him on their team’s roster needs to dust off the fantasy cobwebs and wake up before he does — probably this weekend against an incredibly bad Kansas City defense.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills
For three weeks, Jackson will be the feature back of the Buffalo Bills offense while Marshawn Lynch serves his suspension. The Bills let Dominic Rhodes go just days before the season and confirmed their confidence in Jackson’s abilities.

Whether you own Lynch or not, Jackson’s worthy of a roster spot until Week 4.

Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Another of my favorite sleepers this preseason, the troubled young wide receiver is back with the Bengals and seems to be on the right track legally. Henry caught touchdown bombs in all four weeks of the preseason, even while Carson Palmer was out. I’d say that’s a good sign of things to come with Palmer healthy — at least for now.

Get Henry on your team this week before he shows his skills against the Denver Broncos.

Mike Bell, RB, New Orleans Saints
If Pierre Thomas misses the Saints’ Week 1 showdown against the Detroit Lions, who has two thumbs and all the carries near the goal line? THIS GUY. (I’ll admit, that was bad, but you should try to do better.)

Peyton Hillis, RB, Denver Broncos
The other Peyton is a dark horse fantasy back in Denver this season. While Knowshon Moreno gets all the hype, the ladies and the knee injuries, Hillis is the guy who should end up running with the team in two-minute drills and when it counts.

He catches passes, he runs the ball effectively and he’s deceptively known as a fullback on the Broncos’ roster, but you should keep an eye or a roster spot on this rookie standout from 2008.

Shaun Hill, QB, San Francisco 49ers
If Matt Schaub or Kyle Orton is making you nervous, Hill could cure just what ails you. He was productive enough to deserve a few fantasy starts when he finished out the season for the 49ers.

Confirmed as the starting quarterback for 2009, he should take full advantage of all the opportunities exposed when defenses stack the box to stop Frank Gore. Expect Hill to step up this week against the potent Arizona attack.

That’s all for this week. No droppable players to discuss this week, but we’ll revisit next week once we’ve seen how disappointing our fantasy teams can be in real life.

As always, the comments are yours. Have a guy you’re thinking about adding to your roster? Need help at receiver or quarterback this week? Just ask.

Foolish Contest: Win a free season of Dominator Service player alerts

Now that you have your fantasy football team drafted and ready for action, you should be looking for any way to get an edge on the rest of your league. Besides subscribing to Fantasy Football Fools, another great way to stay in the know is by signing up for player news alerts.

Top Fantasy Football recently contacted us to offer one free subscription to their Dominator Service to one lucky Fantasy Football Fools reader, and we decided to make it happen. It is, after all, a special day — 9/9/09, the final day before the regular season begins. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

Their Dominator Service sends out updates about waiver wire pickups and notifications on up to 20 preselected players of your choice. You also get injury news and game day weather updates to save you time on your research each week.

It’s almost like the Dominator Service makes fantasy football your significant other — girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, puppy or houseplant, as the case may be. From time to time, you get a message with an important update that you have to act on immediately. The rest of the time, you may get a few flirty texts or email messages that keep you informed and in touch with your fantasy football team’s inner feelings and emotions…

It’s really much less like “The View” than I just made it sound. You can see everything that comes with the dominator service at Top Fantasy Football.

To enter to win this free service for the 2009 season, all you have to do is leave a comment on THIS post, and, in your comment, tell us why you need to win your fantasy football league this year. Comments that do not include an explanation of why you deserve the Dominator Service this season will not be considered.

Note: Humor will be taken into account when choosing the winner of this contest. While the most important thing is to leave a comment with a reason, the more entertaining your comment is, the better.

For example, explaining that you need to win because your leaguemate recently stole your lunch money, your girlfriend or your job will win you special bonus points. We have a soft spot for revenge tales.

On Thursday night (or Friday if we have to wait for a few more comments), we’ll select a winner based upon how much we liked a particular comment and how many “likes” it received within our new Disqus commenting system on this post. The winner will be notified and setup within the Dominator Service system by Top Fantasy Football.

So that’s it. Make sure to get a comment posted by Thursday night. That’s tomorrow! And don’t forget to subscribe to receive our updates from Fantasy Football Fools while you’re at it.

Make your stories good, but try not to make anyone cry, okay? After watching Seven Pounds this weekend and talking to OU fans, I don’t need to see any more tears this week.

UPDATE: Brian is our winner. Congrats, Brian! Now he gets to overcome having just one keeper in a three-keeper league. Ouch!

Foolish Thoughts: Are you ready for some football?

The final weekend of the preseason might be the worst week as an NFL fan. Starters play only a few minutes while coaches get a look at the rest of the depth chart to make final cuts, and we all know that in just one more week the games will actually mean something. While the Labor Day weekend appeased us with some college football action, real NFL football is now just days away.

Hopefully, you had a good draft without falling victim to many common mistakes. It won’t be long before we see all those third-year wide receivers breaking out and all those high-workload running backs breaking down, or will they?

Big News This Week

In a surprise move, the Detroit Lions declared Matthew Stafford their starter against New Orleans. I expected Stafford to get the call eventually this year, but Daunte Culpepper had outplayed him in camp and in the preseason until his foot injury — oh, the dangers of carpet. Culpepper was expected to at least start the year under center before handing it off to Stafford.

With the golden boy taking the heat right away, don’t expect a Matt Ryan rookie season out of Stafford. He’s a young rookie, and there will be plenty of hard times this season to go along with all the good ones. He actually takes a bit away from Calvin Johnson in my mind since he’s likely to turnover the ball as many times as he gets it down the field.

Tampa Bay also shocked us this weekend. Not by firing their offensive coordinator — there are plenty of people doing that — but by naming Cadillac Williams, the man with the bionic knees, as their starter. Williams will still be splitting time with Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham in some kind of sinful 2-2-1 RBBC combo, but on any given Sunday, he’ll get the first crack at the defense and the first chance to shine. That’s worth something.

Now that you’ve drafted

With your team assembled, this week’s a great time to take care of a few housekeeping issues. Have you checked out how well your backup quarterback fits your starter’s bye week? Have you looked at how your team stacks up for the fantasy playoffs?

These things are good to keep in mind heading into the season. Knowing you have a bad matchup in the playoffs will allow you to start shopping a player in the middle of the season and unload him for something of equal or greater value that can get you to the championship.

I am not too afraid of Green Bay’s tough road in the fantasy playoffs, but Washington looks more and more like a team to get rid of quickly this year.

Shots in the Dark

With the excitement of the preseason, bold statements come out of the woodwork. Unless you’re just looking at the facts and only the facts, you’re probably expecting one of the following predictions to come true. How good do you feel about it now that we enter into the first week of games that matter?

Well, we’ve read all about that. Now, we get to see what comes true. Look out for our starter recommendations and the rest of your weekly prep this week as we begin fantasy football season with a bang.

And so begins our fantasy football addiction…

[You can check in with Norm’s latest struggles with fantasy addiction over at Global Sports Fraternity.]

Preseason Fantasy Football Product Roundup 2009

From time to time, I get emails from folks within the fantasy football community telling me about their great products, and most of them really are useful. Unfortunately, I rarely get a chance to highlight them for you, the readers, because fantasy football talk, the heart of all we do here at Fantasy Football Fools, always comes first.

To make you aware of some of the cool fantasy football projects, applications and items out there, and to clean out my email inbox, I’ve decided to do the occasional product roundup post — starting with the one you’re reading right now if you couldn’t tell where this is going.

Many of them are products that I haven’t gotten a chance to test out. I’m just relaying the info to you. If you have any experience with them, if you like what they have to offer or if you want to take it upon yourself to review them for the fantasy football community, please, by all means, share your knowledge in the comments.

For Your Fantasy Football Draft

I know it might be too late already for some of these draft products, but if you like what you see, there’s always next year.

Free Footballguys.com Fantasy Football Magazine and Tools

Football Jabber highlighted the Footballguys.com free magazine offer earlier this offseason, but if you missed it, you should visit their free offering now before you draft. Footballguys.com provides some of the best analysis and fantasy football scouting in the biz, and if you’d rather have them speak it at you, their podcast, The Audible, provides you with more sound-bite-size nuggets of fantasy football information than you can listen to in any given week.

Not only is Footballguys.com giving away their 250-page magazine electronically, but they are also providing in-depth fantasy football tools like Rate My Team, which provides you with a complete analysis of your draft once you’ve assembled your squad. People love it. It drills down to which players might start for you each week throughout the season and where bye weeks could hurt you. I’ve enjoyed plugging in a few of my teams to see what they recommend.

For all this fantasy football research and more, visit the Footballguys.com free tools section.

iPhone Fantasy Football Draft App: Studs & Duds

I’m not an iPhone user, but the creator of the Studs & Duds Fantasy Football Draft Kit contacted us about testing it out, and it seems to be one of the good ones.

If you’ve used this app or any other iPhone apps to draft your fantasy football team, how did they stack up? The only person I’ve seen using an iPhone app cheatsheet thus far was a Houston Texans homer who drafted Matt Schaub in the third round. I’m guessing the draft app didn’t tell him to do that.

FanDraft Digital Draft Board

The first of its kind, FanDraft is a piece of software that projects your draft board onto a wall or television and allows players to select teams with all the excitement of the real NFL draft … but without the Mel Kiper — is that an upgrade?

The application looks pretty entertaining with team logos, an automated draft clock, a streaming ticker and sound effects. I’ve been tempted to try out a digital draft board, but most of my leagues are still in the dark ages — hauling that giant sheet of paper and cardboard stand into the draft room for players to select their teams with stickers.

The paper draft board for one of my leagues was actually pretty unreliable this year. They should apologize to “Steve Slayton” and “Austin Miles” (a.k.a. Miles Austin) for botching their names on the sticker sets.

If you’ve ever used FanDraft, I’d be interested to hear how you liked the draft experience.

Managing Your Team and Lineups

Sports Data Hub

Sports Data Hub is great as a draft prep tool and a hot spot for mid-season research. A friend of the Fantasy Football Fools, SDH has made some updates this offseason and exited beta this August. You can now import your Yahoo! leagues straight into the site and analyze player rankings and projections based on your own custom scoring rules.

They also offer instant projections via Twitter and a Facebook app so that you can continue to trash talk your friends and stalk your ex-girlfriends while you research your fantasy team. Just tweet “@SDHnow Player Name” to get projections on demand. I’m a fan of their work.

SDH requires you to subscribe for the really meaty material, but based on their free tools and various demos that I’ve seen, I’d say it’s worth a few bucks a month for the serious fantasy football stat addicts out there.

RallyCast

Rallycast Demo in LabAvailable in Best Buy on September 6, RallyCast allows you to view your scores and stats for fantasy leagues on CBS, ESPN or Yahoo! right on your TV screen. It’s for those times when sitting with a computer in your lap is impossible, such as binge eating … or drinking … as the case may be.

Apparently, you can view RallyCast on top of any channel, so you don’t even have to miss the in-game action — or the latest episode of So You Think You Can Dance — while you check your scores.

The app also allows you to post to Facebook and text message your friends from your remote control. It sounds like you never have to leave the couch on Sunday again, or move more than your little finger … Awesome.

For more on RallyCast, you can watch this handy little clip they put together to introduce it to the fantasy football world.

Impressing Your Friends

Fantasy Football Trophies: FantasyTrophies.com and iwonmyleague.com

Fantasy TrophiesIs it time for you league to upgrade your trophy? Or does your league even have a trophy?

In my most serious and bloodthirsty league, our trophy could probably use an upgrade, and both FantasyTrophies.com and iwonmyleague.com offer some very cool alternatives to the norm. I mean, a fantasy football trophy should stand out from all those trophies you collected by playing in little league every year, right?

It just doesn’t say fantasy football unless the trophy on your mantel contains a fat metal man in an armchair. That’s one that not only impresses your friends but also ruins your reputation at the same time.

Fantasy Football T-Shirts

You can find some of the most snazzy fantasy football t-shirts around at Art of the Fan if you want to sport your addiction on your chest. (Just note that these may get you beat up depending on where you wear them.)

I like the fantasy sleeper shirt.

Protecting Your Dough

Fantasy Sports Insurance

Playing fantasy football is risky, and I’m sure we’re all still feeling the hurt of losing Tom Brady in the first game of the season last year. But you can protect your investment in big money leagues with some insurance.

Oh, that’s right. Fantasy football insurance exists, and Chris Cooley is a fan.

If you draft a lot of Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams or Kansas City Chiefs, insurance on your entrance fee might not be a bad idea.

League Safe

If you’ve ever worried that your league commissioner spent your entrance fees on his last beer run or lost it in Vegas, League Safe might help establish that nice level of trust … by not trusting at all.

Fantasy Football Goat wrote up a great explanation of the service last season, and Football Jabber tried it out.

With League Safe, You can also collect your league dues online through their site so that your out-of-state buddy doesn’t skate by without paying when his team starts 0-4.

Fantasy Football Games and Hosts

FanSection Fantasy Football 2009 on Facebook

FanSection_FF2009HomeFanSection LogoCombining two things that fantasy football players love, playing it and flaunting your success in front of friends, Watercooler’s FanSection Fantasy Football 2009 Facebook application is a full-featured fantasy football management suite inside Facebook.

You can invite friends, get news updates from CBSSports.com and post your latest scores right in your Facebook news feed. The only knock I have on it is that it doesn’t offer free live scoring.

If you’re a Coors Light fan, you’ll like that the beer that tastes like licking a mountain has also sponsored the FanSection experience.

eCouchCoach

If you want a more custom-tailored approach to fantasy football this season, you might find what you’re looking for at eCouchCoach.

They offer custom league domains so that you never suffer from lag during the afternoon games on Sunday, and even if you don’t host your league with them, they offer a handful of useful Twitter bots to get your fantasy football fix on the go — or on the couch.

Fantasy Fat Cat

For instant gratification, Fantasy Fat Cat offers daily and weekly fantasy contests. I can’t vouch for it since I’ve never tried their games, but they offer free live scoring on your iPhone.

Fantazzle

A fantasy sports games site with some of the best rankings around as proven by Fantasy Football Librarian, Fantazzle not only gives you rankings but also a few games to test their rankings out on and win money. Isn’t that nice of them?

RapidDraft

If you always wanted to draft against the pros or just like Second Life avatars, RapidDraft is another fantasy football contest out there. Unlike the typical fantasy football league, you play in single-player mode at RapidDraft.

After buying a team, you draft against the avatars of 11 experts in the fantasy football industry. If you put together a winner, the grand prize is $250,000. If not, at least you can pretend Victoria is your girlfriend, right?

Share Your Reviews

Good luck this season, and if you’re drafting this weekend, prepare by reading our 2009 Foolish Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

As always, the comments are yours. If you’ve tried out any of the above products or have more info, please share your reviews with the foolish community.

Guest Post: Three RBBCs to Target in Fantasy Football Drafts

This second guest post comes to us all the way across the pond from Ross Mooring of Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Teeth. This article is a follow up to his first guest post on three RBBCs to avoid in your drafts this season.

It’s now time to look at the running-back-by-committees (RBBC) that fantasy owners should try to monopolize in drafts this year. In most cases, fantasy players should study RBBC situations and draft only the favorites to receive the most carries when the time is right, but some teams possess running backs who collectively are undervalued or that, when drafted together, increase the value and reliability of those players.

Dallas Cowboys

A fit (well, fitter) Marion Barber is a surefire fantasy workhorse. One of the toughest running backs in the game, Barber is not only a threat on the goal line but also receiving out of the backfield. He will get every yard available.

MBIII has shockingly been falling to the beginning of the third round in 12-team drafts, mainly because of the presence of Felix Jones. This fall makes Barber an absolute steal given his propensity to carry the rock into the end zone on a weekly basis.

Jones still represents draft value at the very end of the sixth round, but here’s the clincher: the two of them offer different skill sets, don’t mutually deplete fantasy value very much and will be given enough touches to produce fantasy points.

Barber cannot carry the ball 25 times per game without breaking down while Jones is a threat in space, not in short-yardage situations. Take both with glee, and if you smell an injury, Tashard Choice won’t be waiver-wire fodder for long.

Indianapolis Colts

I’m making a joke, right? The Colts’ backfield, the very same backfield that struggled immensely in 2008, is one of the top three to target in 2009? Yes, it is!

Last year, not only did Joseph Addai have injury problems, but so did three of his offensive linemen and Peyton Manning. All have returned to good health this season. One must remember that Indianapolis is an offensive machine — always has been, always will be. At least while Manning is around…

Between Addai and rookie Donald Brown, we either have one back who will produce RB1 stat lines or two backs who will post RB2 and RB3 numbers. At the very worst, drafting both guarantees you will have insurance against an Addai injury.

You can wait on taking a second back through the first three or even four rounds — yes, Addai has been falling that far (ADP: 5.08!) — and secure the most undervalued RBBC in all of football in the sixth or seventh round.

Just make sure you don’t get arrested for robbery at the end of the year.

San Diego Chargers

The word on the grapevine is that last year was an offensive hiccup for San Diego, not in terms of total output but in the fact that the Chargers succeeded by passing the football and not running it.

With an improved defense (Shawne Merriman single-handedly improves this unit), why not control the game by slowing it down on the ground and letting Philip Rivers air it out with play action when necessary?

With LaDainian Tomlinson hitting the big 3-0 and Darren Sproles not yet a seasoned pro, one could be forgiven for doubting them, but L.T. is a once-in-a-decade back. A single season of wear and tear is not going to bring him down. A pick in the latter half of the first round — anywhere after that is a steal — represents value.

The kicker is that Sproles, who is playing under a franchise tag, is not going until late in the eighth round. If you’re in the right draft slot, take them both and sleep well knowing you have guaranteed yourself some big production at running back.

And one more bonus RBBC…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Editor’s Note: Tampa Bay was originally the third team to target until recent news revealed the 2-2-1 split they plan to use with Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams. Take these words as you will now that we know this committee will be very divided...

Tampa Bay is one of a couple of backfields that will be drafted late, mainly because of the lack of standout names but also because the statistical ceiling isn’t quite as sexy as it is elsewhere.

Make no mistake, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham will consistently notch points for fantasy owners in 2009 — the former with the bulk of the carries and the latter with the bulk of the touchdowns.

The advantage of this RBBC is that Tampa Bay does not have much of a passing game to hang its hat on. Antonio Bryant is unpredictable and potentially unreliable, and the same could be said of Kellen Winslow and his health issues. On top of that, the quarterback situation is confusing, and there seems to be little reason for Raheem Morris to do anything but lean on the run.

Ward has been drafted right at the end of the fourth round (steal), and Graham has seen his number called as late as the end of the tenth round (bigger steal!).

Do you agree or disagree with Ross on these RBBCs to target? As always, the comments are yours. Read more of Ross’ writing at Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Teeth.

Foolish Thoughts: Rate My 2009 Team

No one can claim to be all-knowing when it comes to fantasy football, and one of the most valuable parts of blogging about it for me is the reader feedback I receive in the comments. Your competition will never share their inner thoughts or concerns about your team — not without offering you a trade based on their opinion. A neutral outsider can help you determine what the rest of your league is thinking about your squad after the draft.

Team managers, of course, always think their team is bound for a championship. That’s a tad biased.

Now that I’ve compiled several of my teams this year, I thought it’d be interesting to discuss one of them and my trading and waiver wire plans for it this season. If you have a team you’d like to share, drop it in the comments. We could all use a good “How’d I do?”

My Team

This 10-team league follows basic scoring rules with no points per reception, but passing touchdowns are six points rather than the normal four points. The starting lineup is QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, K, DEF.

Here’s the team I trotted out of the bar with after our draft:

1.06 Randy Moss WR, New England Patriots
2.05 Greg Jennings WR, Green Bay Packers
3.06 Steven Jackson RB, St. Louis Rams
4.05 Aaron Rodgers QB, Green Bay Packers
5.06 Darren McFadden, RB Oakland Raiders
6.05 Ray Rice RB, Baltimore Ravens
7.06 Marshawn Lynch, RB Buffalo Bills
8.05 Devin Hester WR, Chicago Bears
9.06 Jay Cutler QB, Chicago Bears
10.05 Chris Henry WR, Cincinnati Bengals
11.06 LeSean McCoy RB, Philadelphia Eagles
12.05 Josh Morgan WR, San Francisco 49ers
13.06 Fred Jackson RB, Buffalo Bills
14.05 Dallas Cowboys DEF
15.06 John Carlson TE, Seattle Seahawks
16.05 Mason Crosby K, Green Bay Packers

My Initial Thoughts

I don’t love Steven Jackson, but even if you hate the guy, you can’t pass on him in the third round. He was worth the risk there, and I think I covered my tracks with McFadden, Rice and Lynch enough to fill in for Jackson’s inevitable injury or failings this season.

My selection of Jackson in the third round was a choice between SJax and Clinton Portis, but I chose Jackson for the upside. We know what we’re getting with Portis, and he’s already banged up this season. Jackson is healthy for now, and he’s bound to start off the season hot.

I made sure to build strength at wide receiver and quarterback in this league, where quarterbacks and wide receivers go early and often, and I like the players I ended up getting. Greg Jennings is one of my favorites going into this season, and Randy Moss should get plenty of touchdowns this year now that Tom Brady is back.

I felt a lot better about Darren McFadden before New Orleans destroyed Oakland in that blowout this weekend, but I like his chances to rebound from that poor performance. I was a big fan of running backs who caught passes in addition to getting carries, and most of my team shows that attraction. Hopefully, I won’t have many of my running backs shut out against tough run defenses because of their dual-threat nature.

I know Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers have the same bye week, but I liked them both this year. I plan on trading away the one I use less after the bye week, and I’ll be left with a stronger team because I’ll be able to choose between the two.

By the time their Week 5 bye approaches, I’ll be able to drop Fred Jackson and pick up an undrafted quarterback to fill in at quarterback. There are plenty of quarterbacks still on the board after just 16 rounds in this league. No one even touched Brett Favre.

In the later rounds, I tried to snag a few sleepers and backups to tighten up my team. Chris Henry and Josh Morgan could be value grabs, or I might be able to drop them after the first two or three weeks of the season. We’ll see how they work out.

After waiting until the very end of the draft to select a tight end, I was very pleased to get John Carlson. He could finish as a top-five or at least top-seven tight end, and I didn’t pay anything for him at all.

Your Thoughts

So what do you think? Where are the weaknesses (risky running backs) and strengths (proven wide receivers and upside quarterbacks) on my team? As always, the comments are yours. If you have a team that you’d like to share with the Foolish community, leave it in the comments with some notes about your starting lineup and scoring rules.