Foolish Thoughts: Turner, Benson, Brown, Westbrook struck down by fantasy jinx

It’s all your fault, you know. Yes, you, the one who pointed out how few injuries had struck fantasy owners thus far this season. You’re the reason we lost Cedric Benson, Ronnie Brown, Michael Turner, Julius Jones and Brian Westbrook (again).

You jinxed three of the top backs in fantasy…and Julius Jones just happened to go down the same week.

I would say you cost us Kyle Orton, too, but it seems he won’t even miss a game despite his ankle injury. His neckbeard can take a twist of the ankle and a crushing in stride. There’s something else that Orton and cockroaches have in common.

It’s hard to say who got it the worst. Westbrook owners have been dealing with this all season. Much like Jon and Kate of “plus eight” fame, no one expected this to last all season.

Benson owners got a bargain rate on him to begin with in the draft this year, which makes it hard for me to feel sorry for them. Give your fantasy gift-workhorse a breather. Stop being so needy.

While “Wildcatting” his way into the fantasy hearts of fantasy owners, Brown still shared carries this season with Ricky Williams. Owners could have locked Brown up as a second running back in the draft and might have even stashed Ricky Williams as a precautionary measure.

You may be in a bit of hot water if you were relying on Brown at this point in the season, but I’d expect you to have a backup plan.

Julius Jones? Well, is anyone missing him?

Is that crickets I hear?

Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Jones got injured. I wish the guy the best, but now we can all get a serious look at Justin Forsett, and that’s all we really wanted out of Seattle this season anyway.

But Turner owners, poor Turner owners, you just lost your first round pick. A high ankle sprain is no tiny injury, and it could be several weeks before Turner gets back on the field.

Sure, maybe you wore a tin foil hat all season and picked up Jason Snelling to hedge your bets, but if not, you’re probably looking for a solid replacement this week. Good luck to you.

For the savvy few who stocked up on young backs poised to break out at some point this year…and who stuck out the weeks upon weeks where they did next to nothing this season, this week also marked the emergence of several young backs that owners had been stockpiling all season.

Was Sunday some special holiday or rebirth and renewal? No, I’ll stick with the jinx hypothesis.

Jamaal Charles — Nice of you to finally come to the party. I only had to pick you as a solid start for two weeks in a row. I know 103 rushing yards, a touchdown, and four receptions for 14 receiving yards may come easy against the Raiders, but I’m looking forward to how this carries into next week. If you become reliable, I might even start you in the fantasy playoffs against Buffalo and Cleveland.

Beanie Wells — That’s the kind of game we’ve expected from you all season, scoring twice and looking like a real champ. You even got some work in the passing game. Are Tim Hightower’s days numbered? I’m not so sure. But I do know you are getting your fair share of the work from here on out. That’s promising.

Justin Forsett — In Julius Jones absence, you racked up 123 yards, a touchdown, and five receptions for 26 yards. I love surprises, but it sure would have been nice to know you were going to take over this week.

And just because the Raiders have to screw fantasy owners that find themselves relying on them when it matters most, it was Michael Bush, not Darren McFadden, running for more than 100 yards against the Chiefs. Oh, Al Davis, so old-persony cute and so very evil.

It may be frustratingly impossible to predict who gets the bulk of the Raiders’ running game now that all three are back in the fold. Most weeks, you shouldn’t touch them. Same rule applies to Al Davis.

I know the hot story out there is that Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee at the end of the game rather than running it into the end zone. Some fantasy owners may be furious, but as a MJD owner and supporter, I’m not.

The guy already gave you a touchdown and over 100 yards. I think we can let him off the hook just this once for not getting two scores in a crucial time management situation. We should just be glad he’s not Michael Turner. If you owned him, you’d be much more angry.

Now back to watching the Browns circle the toilet bowl. I keep expecting their offense to take the field at some point, but it doesn’t seem like they have one. Just tragic.

Foolish Thoughts: California Dreams and NFL at 10

It’s easy to pick on Brian Westbrook, but his surprise “inactivity” this week probably caught many fantasy owners off-guard. It caught me off-guard. All indications were that he would take the field, but some headaches on Friday conspired to keep him from playing.

That also prevented me from starting LeSean McCoy over Jamaal Charles. Would have been nice to know, you know, Westbrook?

I spent the past weekend and first half of this week in California for a conference. For some reason, I assumed that free Internet would be easily found and obtained around the state of California, land of tech and startups, but it was pretty lacking around the hotel. Not to mention, the hotel wanted to charge $13 per day to plug into the wall for Internet. What is this? The Dark Ages?

I hadn’t fully adjusted to the time change on Sunday at 10 a.m. when I realized the games were already starting. Football at 10 a.m.? That feels like college. I don’t like that.

The bye week served Tampa Bay well. Not only did they get Josh Freeman up to speed for his first start, but they also got the team excited enough to get after the Packers and get their first win of the season. Quite a way to start off a rookie season. Might be the only good game he has in him this year.

No 0-16 seasons this year. Three weeks ago it looked like it would be a race between the Titans and the Bucs, but now both teams have rediscovered their offenses thanks to quarterback changes and bye weeks. I guess that’s why they have the byes. I just thought the byes were intended to make fantasy football more difficult.

At least we can still hope for 1-15.

Kurt Warner’s having hot flashes. Never has the Warner boom-bust phenomenon been more obvious than his five-touchdown performance one week after his five-interception game.

On the other hand, Cedric Benson proved he’s the model of consistency. Baltimore looked angry last week, ready to destroy Cincinnati in their revenge game, but Benson put up 100+ yards on them again and added a score just to drive the point home.

Much to the delight of DeAngelo Williams’ owners, the Saints let the Panthers roll on them again in the first half. That run defense just can’t hold the line anymore with the injuries that have hit it in recent weeks, but they still come up with the big play.

This week, it was forced fumbles that created the Saints’ scoring opportunity on defense instead of Darren Sharper and that excellent secondary. Even though they let the scores get high, the Saints remain a valid fantasy option by scoring so much on defense.

I really expected the Patriots to exploit the young and inexperienced Miami secondary more than they did on Sunday. Randy Moss had a big day, but Brady didn’t do much more than that. Where’s the evil Belichick I know and love?

Jay Cutler proved that his favorite target is Greg Olsen by throwing him three touchdowns against the Cardinals.

Matt Forte barely remembers what the ball even looks like at this point. The Bears had to abandon the run so that Cutler could try to get them back in it. At this point, you can pretty much call Forte’s season “over.”

It took longer than expected, but Clinton Portis finally went out of a game with an injury this week as the Redskins got run over by Michael Turner. Portis has fallen off a cliff this year after being driven into the ground by Washington last year.

I don’t have many regrets from this week, but I wish I had started Joseph Addai. Here I was thinking that the Texans had finally fixed their problems on the ground, but short-yardage goal line situations are pretty common for the Colts. Addai capitalized.

Oh, hi there, Chris Chambers. Just when I thought you were dead…

Releasing Larry Johnson less than 100 yards before he becomes the team’s all-time leading rusher? Yeah…I’m pretty sure they had nothing against him.

By the way, now that I’m back to the land of the Internets, the waiver wire post from Tuesday has been updated and fleshed out. Feel free to peruse it’s newly formatted goodness all over again. It’s like going from standard definition to high definition.

Foolish Games We Play: Win Fame and Fortune with Fantasy Football in Week 9

It’s been some time since we talked about the contest and competitions out there in the fantasy football world. If you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling for your current team, or if you’re so secure in your spot that you’ve grown tired of waiting for the playoffs, here are a few opportunities that might catch your eye.

Buffalo Wild Wings’ Football Challenge

Want to play in a game at Raymond James Stadium?

No, the Bucs aren’t having open tryouts — shocking, I know. Through a contest at Buffalo Wild Wings, fans can win a round-trip ticket to Tampa to play in a flag football game on Feb. 13. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful Valentine’s Day celebration? I think so.

Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg from ESPN will coach the flag football teams, and Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk will act as team captains.

Sounds like a pretty nice little Saturday. Much better than Pottery Barn, but here’s the kicker: You have to register in person by tomorrow, Nov. 8. So if you are reading this post, you need to head on over to your local Buffalo Wild Wings right now or tomorrow (to watch all the games, of course) to get registered.

Buffalo Wild Wings Coke CouponYou don’t even have to buy anything to get a chance in this contest. It’s free to anyone who registers at Buffalo Wild Wings.

As an added incentive, Buffalo Wild Wings is circulating a coupon for the month of November (at right, click to view larger, printable copy of the coupon) as if you needed another reason to go right now.

You know, I am a company man when it comes to Buffalo Wild Wings since I’m playing in their All-Star Blogger League this year — or, attempting to play, as my current record might indicate. But you have to appreciate all the love they’ve been giving fantasy football this season.

The official rules and more details are available on the Buffalo Wild Wings contest site.

Best Buy’s Weekly Fantasy Football Challenge

This one’s pretty simple. Best Buy is hosting a contest in which you pick a roster every week to go head-to-head with a celebrity’s team. For every point you beat the celebrity by, you get entered in weekly drawing for prizes. Pretty painless.

This week’s celebrity is Gavin DeGraw, and he’s left himself open for a challenger by choosing Eli Manning as his “bonus” player. You can beat that, people.

Win $50 Gift Card to NFL.com from the Fantasy Football Geeks

The Fantasy Football Geek Blog teamed up with Monster.com to promote the search for the new NFL Director of Fandemonium.

To get your chance at the $50 gift card to NFL.com, all you have to do is pick this week’s top quarterback.

I’d give you a hint of my pick, but I don’t want to taint the contest. Let’s just say I like a certain quarterback coming off a bye and playing a team from Florida, and it’s not Matt Cassel. Piece that cryptic puzzle together if you can.

FanDuel

Finally, Fantasy Football Goat had some nice things to say about his experience with FanDuel. I’ve never played there myself, but he likes it. How can you not trust the word of a goat?

If you take the Goat’s advice and give it a try, feel free to share your experience in the comments for our education.

That’s all I’ve got. Sorry for the late notice on some of these contests, but I thought they were worth sharing, even last minute.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Nine Moves to Make for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

At this point in the season, you might be more concerned with getting to the playoffs than succeeding once you get there. That’s okay. Take it one week at a time. I’ll wait…

But if you have the true heart of a champion, some good luck, and if you’ve been doing your research, you’ve probably go a nice spot on the mantel dusted and ready for this year’s fantasy football championship trophy. It’s okay if we block this photo of the in-laws, right?

In that case, it’s best to start planning for your future, and we’re not talking about your kids’ college funds or your financial plan to navigate this tough economy.

It’s even better. I give you a fantasy football roundtable of epic proportions. This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate was mine to rule, and I chose to look ahead at who might blow up or sink your battleship during Weeks 14-17.

By the way, if you have a playoff schedule that puts your championship game in Week 17, slap your commissioner, reschedule that game immediately, slap your commish again, and never, never speak of playing in Week 17 again. Week 17 isn’t NFL football. It’s just not right to win your league with Jim Sorgi. Not right at all.

This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate roundtable question:

Looking ahead at the fantasy football playoffs (Weeks 14-17), what one player would you want to own during those weeks and what one player would you want to unload before Week 14?

My answer:

Trade deadlines are approaching. Playoffs spots will be locked up soon. The chances to acquire players through “sell high” or “buy low” opportunities are few are far between. That being the case, I’ve chosen to focus on a couple of guys who might still be easily moved. You wouldn’t have to break the bank, and you might end up with a stud on your hands in Weeks 14 through 16.

First, I’d look to acquire Tim Hightower.

Kurt Warner has been fond of the check-down passes thus far this season, and Hightower has been the beneficiary. Even against tough rushing defenses, Hightower never fails to stay involved in the passing game and take advantage of short-yardage and goal line opportunities.

It’d be great to have both Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower on your roster to hedge your bets against any late-season shifts in Beanie’s favor, but I believe Hightower will remain the primary receiving back on passing plays, which the Cardinals should be running plenty of in the fantasy playoffs.

The Cardinals face San Francisco, Detroit and St. Louis in the fantasy playoffs. In Week 1 against the 49ers, Hightower ran just eight times for 15 yards, but he caught 12 passes for 121 yards. A similar performance in Week 14 wouldn’t surprise me, and, well, the Lions and Rams are what they are, great matchups for a team with a powerful offense. By the end of this season, one or both of those squads could have already given up for the year.

If you can’t get Hightower, Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles and Jerome Harrison aren’t bad substitutions. All have a chance to succeed late in the season, and they all carry a fairly low price tag at this point. Bargain bin!

And, for those of you playing at home, I would try to unload DeAngelo Williams before the fantasy playoffs.

Williams finished the year as the No. 1 fantasy running back after a slow start, and he’s once again been inconsistent to start the year in 2009. It’s not just Jonathan Stewart stealing time and touches from him. This year, Jake Delhomme has developed a bad habit of throwing to players in other jerseys.

While Williams is come on strong the past three weeks, he should hit a slump starting in Week 11 against Miami and continuing, outside of a brief practice session against the Bucs in Week 13, into the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, Williams faces the Patriots in New England, followed by the Vikings at home and the Giants in New York for the Giants’ last home game of the season.

If you’re a proud Williams owner, you should deal him away to the highest bidder this week or next before you get stuck in the dumps with him during the playoffs.

Smitty from Fantasy Football Xtreme says:

Every season, a grip of players step up during Weeks 14-16, while others shockingly disappoint. It’s a tough business predicting either, but I have come up with two names. I have talked a lot about running backs and wide receivers over the past few weeks, so this week I’m going to focus on quarterbacks.

One quarterback worth talking about before we even sniff Weeks 14-16 is Kurt Warner. The aging quarterback has been hit or miss this season, and he has thrown 7 interceptions over the past three games putting him at 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year. He has also fumbled the football twice over the last three weeks.

You’re probably guessing that Warner is my “unload” recommendation for Weeks 14-16, right? Wrong.

While I will admit that I have concerns about the aging quarterback staying healthy long enough to see Week 14, he has a fantastic fantasy playoff schedule. The Cardinals face the 49ers (28th) in Week 14, the Lions (29th) in Week 15 and Rams (24th) in Week 16. If healthy, Warner should have a fantastic finish to the fantasy season.

As for my top quarterback to unload before we hit Week 14, I have to go with Carson Palmer.

The Bengals passing schedule isn’t impossible, as they have two decent match-ups in Weeks 14 and 16 in the Vikings (23rd) and Chiefs (29th), but they do have a rough contest against the Chargers (6th) in Week 15. I know Palmer had a monster 5-touchdown performance before his Week 8 bye, where he completed 20-of-24 passes, but before that Week 7 outing, Palmer’s completion percentage was under 60 and he had almost as many interceptions (7) as he had touchdowns (8).

On the year, Palmer has yet to pass for over 300 yards. His Week 7 stats are making him look strong, but I’m predicting that he and the Bengals struggle down the stretch. I say unload Palmer now and take a lateral step into a quarterback with less risk.

Trade Palmer for a Ben Roethlisberger or a Matt Ryan. Both quarterbacks probably have similar perceived value, yet I like both better than Palmer down the stretch (especially in Weeks 14-16).

Junkyard Jake from Junkyard Jake says:

Glancing ahead to the fantasy playoff weeks this year, it appears that Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing game could benefit from a very favorable set of defensive matchups. During Weeks 14 through 16, the Saints face Atlanta on the road and then Dallas and Tampa Bay at home.

As if Brees needed an additional advantage, all three of these games will be in a dome. Moreover, all three of these defenses currently rank in the bottom third of the league in terms of points allowed by opposing quarterbacks.

In contrast to Brees’s favorable playoff schedule, it looks like the Bears’ Matt Forte could have a tougher time. Forte is already having a slightly disappointing season, and it doesn’t appear that he will catch a break during the fantasy playoff Weeks of 14, 15 and 16 when he is slated to face Green Bay, Baltimore and then Minnesota.

Green Bay has been allowing only 91 rush yards per game, and they have yielded just 3 rushing touchdowns so far. Forte’s Week 15 opponent, Baltimore, has allowed just 79 yards per game on the ground. Forte then faces the Vikings in Week 16, a team that touts the No. 2 run defense in the league.

Hatty from Hatty Waiver Wire Guru says:

So essentially we are looking at a buy low/sell high for the playoff run. Having the right RB for the playoffs is a huge key to victory and health is a major consideration for playoff runs.

My sell high right now would be LaDainian Tomlinson. He is coming off a two-touchdown performance, but again is a huge injury concern. You just can’t afford to go into playoffs with one of your top running backs leaving due to injury.

The running back I would work hard to obtain for the playoffs would be a running back who receives a major workload on a team making a run for the playoffs. Cedric Benson helped me to win a fantasy championship in the past and is a stellar running back to go into playoffs with.  He is not prone to injury, doesn’t play in an RBBC situation and is on a team that has a solid chance at making the playoffs.

Ryan Lester from Lester’s Legends says:

Looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs, there are a couple of wide receivers that I would love to own and one that I want no part of.

The wide receivers that I love for the fantasy playoffs are Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Aside from being two of the best wide receivers in the game, there are some other reasons that make them so valuable when fantasy owners need them the most.

First of all, neither team is running away with their division meaning they will likely go full tilt the whole season as they vie for a playoff spot. While wide receivers like Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston are in the driver’s seat of their respective divisions, Fitz and A.J. are not. It’s conceivable that Wayne and Colston get a reduced workload in your league’s championship game. You don’t have to worry about that with Fitz or A.J.

They also have favorable schedules in the fantasy playoffs. Fitz plays at San Francisco, at Detroit and finishes at home against St. Louis. Week 14 could be tough for him, but the final two games could bring the monster performances you expected out of Fitz when you drafted him.

Andre Johnson’s schedule is also a breeze. He starts off at home against Seattle, travels to St. Louis and finishes at Miami. Obviously, I don’t like his championship opponent as much as Fitz, but if he leads you to the title game, you’re in the money anyway.

On the flip side, the player I don’t want on my team come fantasy playoffs time is Carolina’s Steve Smith.

The Panthers start off on the road at New England. Weather is very much a factor in New England in December, which doesn’t bode well for members of the passing game. Next up is Minnesota at home. The pressure that Jared Allen and company put on opposing quarterbacks could make for a long day. Finally, he finishes up against the Giants on the road in the swirling winds.

Smith faces three of the best teams in the league, two in what are likely to be bad-weather games, during the fantasy playoffs. Not to mention he plays in a run-first offense. If I were a Steve Smith owner and had championship aspirations, I’d try to move him now that he’s coming off a pair of good games.

Eric Stashin of Rotoprofessor says:

One of the players I would like to own down the stretch is Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Fantasy football playoffs are tough because if you have a player who is on a team that is coasting into the playoffs, you just don’t know how much they are going to play. With the Falcons, they are three games behind the division lead already, but they are primed for a dogfight to take home the wild card.

In addition, the Falcons take on the New Orleans Saints (middle of the road in rushing defense), New York Jets (sans their big run stuffer, Kris Jenkins), the Buffalo Bills (currently allowing the most rushing yards per game in the league) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (need I say anymore).

That seems like the perfect set-up for a big way to close the season. He’s one of the best backs in the league, and if you are in a position to acquire him for the stretch drive, there is no reason to hesitate.

As for players to avoid, you almost have to look at the flip side: Which team appears to be ready to coast into the playoffs as well as having a tough schedule?

The Minnesota Vikings could be that team, as they have a lead in the division and have the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and New York Giants on the schedule over the final four weeks. Three of those four teams are likely to be in contention for a playoff spot. The easiest game (Panthers) is on the road, as is the game in Chicago, so you don’t know what will happen there.

The likelihood is that the team focuses on the run, as they’ve already shown that they will do, meaning Brett Favre and the Vikings receivers may struggle down the stretch.

Paul Greco from Fantasy Pros 911 says:

I love looking ahead. Why you ask? Well, if I’m looking ahead to Weeks 14 through 17, that means I have a shot at the playoff. Yup, I’m about to make it rain in the Greco household.

The one player that I’d like to unload, not only during the Weeks 14 through 17, but right now, is Carolina Panther’s running back DeAngelo Williams. Coming off a huge game on the ground in Week 8, right now is the time to look to unload Williams.

Starting Week 11, Williams has the toughest Strength-of-Schedule (SOS) the rest of the season. With games against the Miami Dolphins (Week 11), New York Jets (Week 12), New England Patriots (Week 14) and the Minnesota Vikings (Week 15), all four teams are currently ranked in the top 10 for rush defense.

Cedric Benson, running back for the Cincinnati Bengals, is a player you must look to add to your team now. C.B. has the easiest SOS of any running back starting Week 11.

With games against the Oakland Raiders (Week 11), Cleveland Browns (Week 12), Detroit Lions (Week 13), San Diego Chargers (Week 15) and the Kansas City Chiefs (Week 16), all five teams give up an average of 117 rushing yards a game or worse.

C.B. has shown he can carry the load for the Bengals, so why not your team? Look to make a move for CB now, and enjoy big gains the rest of the season.

Bryce McRae from KFFL says:

My pickup for the playoffs: the Kansas City Chiefs’ Kolby Smith (knee). He’s a deep sleeper, yes, but it shouldn’t cost much to get him, and he could pay huge dividends.

Starter Larry Johnson’s suspension ends after Week 9, but the team has given some thought to releasing him. At some point, they have to start looking toward the future.

Jamaal Charles, a third-round pick last year, is expected to shoulder most of the load this week. He’s more of a speedy change-of-pace back, however, and the Chiefs have utilized him as a rusher only 23 times this year. A lot of that has come out of passing downs, too.

This leads us to Smith; the third-year back has carried a full workload in the past (Weeks 12 through 16 in 2007: 100 carries for 387 yards and two scores), and he says he has confidence in his rehabilitated knee. Head coach Todd Haley says Smith is moving around well in practice, too. Smith has the bulk (5-foot-11, 219 pounds) that could help him hold up as a primary back over the speedier Charles.

Kansas City faces the Buffalo Bills (most rushing yards allowed per game to backs this year), the Cleveland Browns (third most) and the Cincinnati Bengals in Weeks 14 through 16, respectively. Cincy isn’t a great matchup, but Smith could be a beast during those two first games.

On the flip side, one player I’m looking to unload before the playoffs is the San Francisco 49ers’ Michael Crabtree. I don’t have much faith in Alex Smith behind center for the long term. I feel defenses might be able to shut down Crabtree, too, once they have more film on him and how the 49ers are using him. Remember: This is still a run-first offense.

Also, I don’t believe his value will be any higher after his first three games. Wait for him to burn the Tennessee Titans, a generous defense to this position, in Week 9 and then sell high on the former Texas Tech wideout.

The defenses Crabtree will face in the traditional playoffs weeks: the Detroit Lions (Week 14), the Arizona Cardinals (Week 15) and the Philadelphia Eagles (Week 16). Philly’s D has been one of the top against this position all season while the other two have shown improvement in the last month. Plus, Detroit’s run D has been bad enough that San Fran might opt to pound the ball.

Kurt Turner from Top-Fantasy-Football says:

Strength of schedule is key when planning for the fantasy football playoffs. Teams like Arizona, San Diego and Miami all have juicy matchups. FFToolbox.com has a nice tool you can use found here that analyzes matchups by position for you.

Here are my picks to own and unload: Kurt Warner and Roddy White.

Snatch up Kurt Warner. He should be a beast in the playoffs. Trade for him now and don’t be afraid to overpay, especially if you’re hurting at quarterback.

A guy I don’t like for the playoffs is Roddy White. White faces some tough pass defenses weeks 14, 15 and 16. If you can get Warner for White (and some change) and still have some other good options at wide receiver, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Good Luck!

That’s all for this week’s Fourth & 1 Debate. While I am largely a fan of riding hot hands into the ground rather than trading them away because of perceived slumps on the horizon, preparing for the fantasy football playoffs is a necessity.

Oh, and if you have a championship game in Week 17, slap your commish again for me.

As always, the comments are yours. Have a player you’re concerned about for the fantasy playoffs? Would you like to add more names to the hat of players to add/drop? Leave a comment to let us know.

Foolish Thoughts: Marc Bulger and Sunday Night Sadness

Baseball stole our Sunday Night Football. How is that fair? Give it back, World Series. I demand it.

I’m fine with baseball as long as I don’t have to sit through an entire game. In my opinion, it should be played in highlight form, jumping to the major parts and leaving out all the rest.

Pitching change? No, sir. You should only be able to make a change between innings. You play yourself out of your own mess, pitcher.

We could also probably speed things up by not using a third baseman. If you get past second, you have to beat the catcher to home plate or get caught trying.

Yeah, yeah, I know that ruins all that “for the love of the game” stuff, but baseball hasn’t done it for me for several years now. I am all for going to a game in person, but watching a game on TV is just…not the same.

And besides, the first minute baseball interferes with my football, it violates my rights. I think it’s fair to hold a grudge. I was forced to watch the Favre-Favre-Favre-fest in Green Bay, and then it was just over. Done.

But at least they put on National Treasure.

Fantasy Football Fools has a new enemy.

Patrick Crayton gets a pass this week. He’s settled in nicely to his role as the slot receiver and returner for the Cowboys.

No, the new bane of my existence is one Marc Bulger, quarterback of the St. Louis Rams and the only human incapable of throwing a touchdown pass against the Lions.

It was a bit of a sleeper pick — okay, a lot of a sleeper pick — to toss him into my starting lineups this week, but it was out of necessity in one league.

Believe it or not, the blogger league I am in was smart enough to stock up on quarterbacks this year. I got hosed in the draft at quarterback and ended up with only Carson Palmer and Trent Edwards. Edwards has since been dropped for bench depth and pure worthlessness.

Palmer’s bye week in Week 8 left me wanting, so I went to the waiver wire only to find that Bulger was the best it had to offer. I almost pulled off the victory, even with Bulger’s pathetic 5.3-point performance, but the Saints defense butchered me in the end.

In the Buffalo Wild Wings All-Star Blogger league, I went with Bulger over Mark Sanchez, mostly due to a fear that Sanchez would do just enough to win. Surely, Marc Bulger, facing the defenseless Detroit Lions, could put up a touchdown, maybe even two touchdowns.

How could I be so foolish…

Luckily, I pulled off the win without Bulger in the BWW league thanks to a clutch performance from Tony Gonzalez and a low-scoring week for my opponent, but Bulger is still not to be trusted.

It’s not like you own him in any leagues, but Bulger is all that is wrong with mankind. When the time arises to do what is necessary, he fails miserably, even with the odds in his favor. Bulger is Mr. Glass to everyone else’s unbreakable Bruce Willis. He’s the even more obscure movie reference to that movie reference.

To his credit, he’s not getting a lot of help out there from his offensive line, but he does have Steven Jackson fighting like a champ for extra yards on every play.

In short, he’s not going to be on my team come Week 9, and I’ll be a better man for it.

Okay, okay. I agree that starting Beanie Wells wasn’t the smartest move. But if the Cardinals hadn’t been forced to pass after going down early — what happened to that run defense? — we might have seen a completely different outcome for Beanie.

As it happened, Andre Johnson was definitely the stronger start, but neither player blew anybody out of the water this week. The Texans were slowed by the Buffalo Bills’ passing defense, but the Bills’ run defense was pathetic, just as advertised.

Ryan Moats, most known for being abused by police, took over the running duties after Steve Slaton was benched for fumbling, and Moats tried his best to earn a larger portion of the duties moving forward. He scored three touchdowns, and if you own Slaton, he probably caused you a minor aneurysm.

The best part? It’s anybody’s guess what this means for Slaton and Moats going forward. Moats could be in line for the starting job. Slaton owners better just try to lock up both backs while they can.

Slaton’s been disappointing enough, but there’s no sense allowing the Houston running game to slip from your grasp by ignoring Moats’ big day.

Apparently, we shouldn’t have been so worried about LaDainian Tomlinson, but for a two-touchdown day, the yardage wasn’t there. Just 56 yards and not a single reception? That doesn’t have me screaming “He’s back” in the street anytime soon.

I loved Matt Forte last season. He was my best pick in the draft last year, and I rode his consistency all the way into the fantasy playoffs. But he’s just not getting the job done this year.

The offensive line isn’t helping him in the running game, and Jay Cutler has the ability to make plays through the air when the game is close rather than checking down to Forte like Kyle Orton was fond of doing last year.

Without those check-down passes, Forte suffers against tough run defenses. He has only shown up against the Lions and this week against the Browns.

If you have the opportunity, I wouldn’t hesitate to trade him, but try to get the greatest value you can for a guy who was drafted with a top-five pick this year.

Is the AFC East the most unpredictable division in football? Just when you think that you know how a game is going to turn out, they spin it on you.

I lucked into starting the Miami defense in one league, but how we were to expect the Dolphins would beat the Jets again? And this time off the returning skills of Ted Ginn?

The Patriots need to get back to form to make everything normal again.

Steven Jackson finally scored a touchdown. The world shook. The seas parted, and it’ll probably never happen again in 2009. Single tear. He deserves many more for the way he’s been running this year, but the schedule is not in his favor.

Starting Beanie Wells over Andre Johnson: Smart Play or Crazy Talk?

In a fantasy football group I participate in each week, Fantasy Football Fanatics on LinkedIn, I recommended going with Beanie Wells in a flex spot over Andre Johnson this week.

Am I crazy or is this smart strategy? I’m going with the numbers here.

My argument for going with Beanie:

There is definitely a huge risk factor in starting Beanie. Still, he’s a hot hand and I’d go with my gut on him.

I really don’t think A.J. is going to go this week. He has a bruised lung. That hurts (I can only imagine.) Besides, the Texans know they probably don’t need him to beat the Bills.

If he plays, he’ll likely be limited and share time with Jacoby Jones and Andre Davis. Then, you have to consider how tough the Bills have been against opposing wide receivers. Actually, they’ve been the best. Just check out the stats at FF Today. Meanwhile, Buffalo ranks first on this chart for fantasy points allowed to running backs. Steve Slaton, I like. Andre, I don’t.

This could be Andre Johnson’s worst week of this season, so that’s where I’m coming from in going with Beanie vs. Carolina (tenth most fantasy points allowed to running backs) in a game that could be controlled by defense and the running games.

I am fine with starting either, but Beanie’s matchup wins my vote.

It’s definitely one of those decisions that I’m going out on a limb to make. The safe play is always to start your studs. At least when they fail, you can say they didn’t show up for you, rather than admitting that you made a stupid guess.

So what say the foolish masses? Is this a smart play? Would you start Beanie? Or would you rather play it safe with Andre Johnson, banged-up and facing a receiver-squashing Bills defense?

Foolish Thoughts: Eagles pigeon-holed, Titans Patrionized and Saints crush Giants

When things get back to normal, they also have to get weird. In the same week that Drew Brees blows apart the Giants like they read their defensive playbook to him as a bedtime story, Tom Brady returns to dominance in a frozen tundra that kept the Titans quarterbacks, both of them, for throwing for positive yardage.

I’d like to think that we have Brady back for good — mostly because I traded for him earlier this season in one league while he was struggling. But there’s no guarantee that this temporary return to form for many of the leagues top fantasy prospects sticks around. After all, the Raiders beat the Eagles this week…

Pigeon trumps Eagle. A lot of things didn’t go the Eagles way on Sunday. They lost Jason Peters. The forgot they had a running game, and obviously, the forces of nature of a higher power turned against them as an innocent-seeming pigeon became the Raiders twelfth man on special teams.

That is a winged sign of bad things to come to say the least.

The bird was all over that contain, and the Raiders didn’t even need him to bottle up the Eagles in this one.

Will this Raiders squad we saw on Sunday play the rest of their games this season? I doubt it. It seems they came together as one and played like the games mattered again, but in another week, they could lose that spark. At least they get Chaz Schilens back this week.

The New England Patriots marched out into the cold against “the best 0-5 team in football” and killed it. They spanked the Titans all over the field like Tennessee didn’t even have a secondary out there, and to be honest, they didn’t. Both starting corners missed this one with injuries.

The Patriots looks like the 2007 incarnation that fantasy owners know and love.

I think we all know why they’re back. Tom Brady has obviously sold his soul to the devil for powers unmatched by any mere mortal quarterback. The truth is out. He’s going to hell.

Tough, I know, but Belichick does ask a lot of his players.

Now the one question remains: To whom did Drew Brees sell his soul?

In weeks like these, you have to question your strategy. Did you play the right guy based on matchups or did you go with your studs? In truth, it’s always a hard call.

If you sat Matt Schaub to play Donovan McNabb or put Ray Rice on your bench against the Vikings, you may be regretting your decision. I did the former but not the latter, which allowed Rice to make up those points I lost by starting McNabb.

Take me back to Sunday morning, and I’d still make the same call. McNabb was the smart play. He just didn’t play smart on Sunday.

This week I also had to watch Matt Forte just ruin his night against the Falcons. He made me regret starting him over Cadillac Williams. Going into Monday night’s game with just the Denver defense, I had all but given up. There was no hope for a victory with 17 points to make up with just a defense in the Blogger League.

But then Eddie Royal happened. I gained a lot of respect for the Denver defense tonight, even more than I had given them up to this point. The Patriots seemed vulnerable when they got beat by Denver in overtime. The Cowboys seemed to attack the Broncos with the wrong strategy — why throw to Champ Bailey? Why?

The Chargers did everything they could to win against the Broncos in a game they needed to win to get back on track, but the Broncos didn’t let them do anything. With a sack-counting defense, a stifling run defense, one of the best corners in the game and now a threat in the return game, the Broncos might just be the best fantasy defense on the board when the season is over. How insane is that?

In the NFL, things can get weird.

Foolish Thoughts: Terrible throwbacks and games to throw back

The NFL should really give all the bad teams the same bye week. Just wait until all the worst teams have shown what they are made of, take the bottom half of the league and give them a week off to heal their wounds. Hey, we could even give the Rams a whole season off. At least that would save us from weeks like these.

Sure, it’s great for fantasy teams. It was pretty easy to set rosters this week outside of any bye week issues, but most of the games were just terrible to watch. If not for a few close ones, I might have had to wash out my eyes with Red Bull and coffee.

The Close Ones

The most brutal of all the games had to be the “who will be fired first” bowl, the Browns facing the Bills. After watching the highlights of it, all three of them, I vote both coaches get the axe.

Derek Anderson led the Browns to a 6-3 victory by completing just two passes. Jamal Lewis returned from injury to run for 117 yards. No one scored a touchdown, and Trent Edwards proved once again that he cannot be expected to take advantage of any matchup, despite his many weapons on offense, unless the other team never takes the field.

Captain Checkdown is just begging you to release him to the free agent pool. He wants no part of your fantasy team. In fact, at the rate he’s going, he wants to be traded to the UFL.

The Cowboys also kept it unexpectedly tight in Kansas City, but in overtime, someone on the team, probably Matt Cassel, recognized that they were still the Chiefs, not the “Dallas Texans” as they pretended Sunday. Then the Chiefs let Miles Austin break every tackle they threw at him to get to the end zone for the win.

Austin even set a Cowboys’ record with his 250-yard, two-touchdown performance, which will make it hard for the Cowboys to slot him back to the third receiver role. Sorry, Patrick Crayton, but your time as the No. 2 in Dallas may have come to an end. (I couldn’t be happier.)

Cedric Benson continued his return-to-relevance tour by breaking the Baltimore Ravens streak of games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. His 120 yards and a touchdown would have been nice to have in the starting lineup rather than my bench, but who knew that it’d be Benson and the Bengals that made the Ravens look like pretenders this week? Not me.

I am still surprised that the Bengals are sitting atop their division with wins over the Steelers and Ravens. That’s crazy talk. If not for that miracle reception in Week 1, the Bengals would be the undefeated team everyone was talking about instead of the Broncos.

Speaking of Denver, the Broncos took it to overtime against New England, where Tom Brady has never lost, but the coin toss went in Denver’s favor.

I have to say that the Broncos are legit now that they have beaten two shaky but worthy opponents, the Patriots and the Cowboys. But those throwback uniforms are not legit.

Kyle Orton throws some ugly passes, but he had the benefit of those blinding uniforms. You couldn’t look at the players who had twisted their vertically striped socks without getting vertigo. Please burn those uniforms, Broncos, so that we never have to look upon them again. Never again.

I’m impressed with Josh McDaniels and his Hulk-scream celebration after the game while Bill Belichick looked like a lost puppy in the middle of the field, but I don’t expect this team to go undefeated much longer. They’re scraping by in too many games so far to keep it up.

Surprise, surprise

While Sunday had more than its fair share of amazing performances, they weren’t from the guys you would expect. That always makes fantasy owners happy.

The Lions lost the services of Calvin Johnson early against the Steelers, but Daunte Culpepper kept it close thanks to some help from Dennis Northcutt. Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t come back for a win without their star weapon in the game and failed to make the plays that would have given them the lead. Thus, they restored the balance in the universe by not beating the Super Bowl champs.

Against Oakland, it was Ahmad Bradshaw, not Brandon Jacobs, pounding the Raiders for 110 yards and two touchdowns, which was great news for those of us who drafted Brandon Jacobs expecting him to be the engine of this offense.

Do they give Jacobs a snack break when they get close to the red zone? Does Ahmad Bradshaw hide his helmet on the sidelines? I do not understand what’s happening out there, but I do know that Jacobs hasn’t lived up to expectations yet.

In the Eagles’ air assault of the Bucs, it was Jeremy Maclin, not DeSean Jackson, getting the big plays. Maclin recorded 142 yards and two touchdowns, which probably didn’t benefit a single fantasy owner out there.

With McNabb back in the lineup, the Eagles may return to their I-can-pick-any-receiver-I-want ways, which makes it very dangerous for fantasy owners to trust DeSean Jackson every week. But if you’re going to trust any Eagles receiver, it’s Jackson. He’s looked unstoppable with the ball in his hands so far this season.

The Usual Returns

In his first big game of the season, Roddy White made the San Francisco 49ers defense look like the 49ers of old in torching them for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Turner finished the job by walking all over them for three more touchdowns. At least the 49ers should have Frank Gore back after their bye week.

Bucs’ tight end Kellen Winslow returned to his “soulja” ways by scoring twice against the Eagles, even though the game was put away early by Donovan McNabb and Jeremy Maclin’s two connections. Josh Johnson got Winslow involved but, sadly, also got Asante Samuel, who had two picks, far too involved.

Matt Hasselbeck started for the Seahawks after recovering from his rib injury and blew the Jacksonville Jaguars pass defense away with four touchdowns, two to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and two to Nate Burleson. Four touchdowns? Four? I didn’t think Hasselbeck had it in him, but he has a very pass-friendly schedule this season.

The Jaguars scratched their star weapon, Mike Sims-Walker, for violating team rules and paid the price. Without him, the Jags looked lost on offense and never got on the scoreboard against the Seahawks.

The Sinking of the Titanic

I know this is a shocker, but in case you didn’t know, the Titans are not going to the playoffs this year. They’re 0-5 and facing the Patriots for a chance to prevent 0-6, and I’m not sure that we can say they’re the best winless team anymore. They just don’t look like the same squad that went 10-0 to start the season in 2008.

On defense, the Titans have been dropping cornerbacks like flies, weakening their secondary beyond recovery, and their pass rush has disappeared without Albert Haynesworth. Without their defense creating stops, the offense can’t control the clock by running the ball.

Tennessee’s offense has become so predictable that even their opponents overthink it. A Wildcat play with Vince Young? Well, considering how successful the Dolphins were with it, that just might work, but the Titans did nothing more than hint at a Wildcat formation to keep the Colts on their toes.

This team has lost their identity. Now they’ll lose one more game before turning the offense over to Vince Young on the bye week to see what they have to look forward to next year and beyond. Tennessee fans and fantasy owners can only hope that Jeff Fisher gets more creative than he has these first five weeks of the season.

10 Yards: Fantasy Football—What fantasy football is all about

Hunter Weeks, Josh Caldwell, and j.fred watch a game during playoffs for their league.

10 Yards' Hunter Weeks, Josh Caldwell, and j.fred watch a game during playoffs for their league.

There’s a lot more to fantasy football than the glitz and the glamour, the ladies hanging off every open arm and all that time spent in well-lit rooms, but in all seriousness, there’s a side to it that rarely gets talked about in blogs, expert sites and in mainstream media coverage.

It’s the fraternity of fantasy football–the camaraderie of being with your buddies, competing against them and, of course, shaming them in open forums.

You play to win your league, to trash-talk endlessly and to add an element of excitement to your football watching, but along with that, you grow closer to your leaguemates, brothers and sisters in the fantasy football experience, that can last for years as long as the fantasy football league exists.

One of the best parts of trying to put together a trade, which I’m doing a lot of this week, is getting back in touch with your friends who you may not have spoken to in a few weeks, months or years, especially if their trade prospects in fantasy football haven’t been very good for several seasons.

In documentary style, “10 Yards: Fantasy Football” follows one entire NFL season in a special fantasy football league, a league which has stayed together over several post-college years through marriage and babymaking. The league battles for Twinkies, not cash.

The film tracks the records of three teams in the league, but more importantly, it focuses on the relationships, the good times and bad, had by all the fantasy footballers of the Intergalactic Championship League.

The director and editor of the film also got a chance to interview several of the men behind the creation of fantasy football, fantasy football experts around the U.S. and current NFL players who comment on the increased popularity fantasy football has brought to kickers. You know the kickers love it.

Sure, I could make a joke about playing for Twinkies, the odd team names or commissioner j.fred’s costumes and mustache, but this movie was a really good watch. I highly recommend it, and I didn’t get a chance to give it justice by reviewing it last season when it was released.

Now, it’s available to watch on YouTube [UPDATE: No longer available on YouTube], but I suggest you also buy the DVD for the commentary and special features. It’s worth it for a few more scenes with j.fred in action.

If you have a spouse or significant other who calls fantasy football nerdy, silly or otherwise harasses you about your addiction, before divorcing them, you should make them watch “10 Yards.” It’s possible that it could save your relationship.

Of course, it could just reinforce what s/he already thinks of your growing neglect of everything outside of fantasy football. Your call, buddy, but you should watch it and buy it if you feel the same way I do.

UPDATE: The film is no longer available on YouTube, but you can now watch it for free online at SnagFilms (embedded below).
Watch more free documentaries

[Disclosure: Fantasy Football Fools received a review copy of “10 Yards: Fantasy Football” on DVD. http://cmp.ly/1]

Foolish Thoughts: The Brady Bench, Law of Averages and Josh Johnson

Since graduating college, I’ve occasionally had a dream that I was still taking finals. In the dream, I wake up and realize that I have a final that very day, but it’s for a class that I didn’t know I was taking and haven’t attended even one day that semester.

Right about the time that I start to try to cram for the test or figure out a way to drop the class at the last minute, I wake up. I still don’t even know what subject it is. I’m going to guess it’s something scary like basket weaving.

I like to imagine that dream is exactly how Brady Quinn feels when he hits the field, except for that whole wake up part.

In the preseason, Quinn barely edged out Derek Anderson for the starting job. Since then, he’s put on a clinic on how to lose said starting job. His conservative play and quick passes haven’t been able to overcome the failings of the Browns as a whole. Without Kellen Winslow, his short-passing ways have neutered the offense of its ability to generate big plays, and in Sunday’s brutalization by the Baltimore Ravens, Mangenius had finally had enough to pull Quinn and his 34 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception for Anderson in the second half.

But Anderson provided little relief for the Browns. He promptly fired three more interceptions into the Baltimore Ravens’ defense and called it a day. After this 34-3 loss, the Browns still have no answer at the quarterback position. And, of course, a harbinger of death over Mangini’s head for some reason.

Maybe it’s not so far-fetched to think that Brett Ratliff, who came over from Mangini’s former team when the Jets traded with the Browns in the 2009 NFL draft, could become Mangini’s guy in Cleveland.

Fantasy owners have no reason to be involved with this Browns offense right now. It’s not going to be pretty, and very few fantasy points are going to go around. Braylon Edwards is the only Brown worth waiting on this season. The rest are simply waiver wire fodder.

Truffle Shuffle in Tampa Bay
Byron Leftwich went from first to worst after Sunday’s deflation against the New York Giants. He’s now the third quarterback on the depth chart behind rookie and heir to the throne Josh Freeman and newly-named starter Josh Johnson.

So who is Josh Johnson? A bit of a sleeper at the position, Johnson was drafted by Jon Gruden to be Tampa’s quarterback of the future — among a pack of quarterbacks during Gruden’s time in Tampa Bay. He had a little hype coming out of college as a great athlete with a pass-first mentality, but the Bucs coaching staff felt he needed a little more work on his accuracy.

Fast-forward to this past Sunday, and Johnson was able to triple Byron Leftwich’s performance in just the final minutes of play against the Giants, which really only means that he has a pulse and moves without having to use the sonar moans of a whale.

Draftguys TV took a look at Josh Johnson before the 2008 draft to break down all his mechanics.

Henne Replaces Penny —   It’s finally that time, but don’t expect things to get better in Miami. Chad Pennington’s good decisions kept the Dolphins from turning the ball over last season, and Chad Henne may not be so lucky against the Dolphins’ tougher schedule now that Pennington is no longer an option.

Well, Once in Every 20 Games — The Lions finally defeated that monkey on their back — not Matt Millen, but the 19-game losing streak. Law of averages says it was bound to happen, but for the Redskins, this loss could be the beginning of the end for Jim Zorn.

Rated PG-13 — The 49ers should be without Frank Gore for the next three weeks while he recovers from a high ankle sprain he suffered early in Sunday’s game against the Vikings. That gives Glen Coffee a few weeks to shine for those who stashed him on their bench and gave ol’ “Silver Fox” just enough to take a victory on Sunday. Also of note, Vernon Davis came alive in this one, but we cannot confirm or deny if he’s on the rise. Such is the way of the elusive Vernon.

It Puts the O in T.O. — It won’t be long before T.O.’s breaking into other Buffalo Bills’ houses to look for all those passes he’s not getting. For the first time since 1997, T.O. didn’t catch a single pass. I’m pretty sure Trent Edwards forgot that Lee Evans and Terrell Owens are on the team. Someone send that kid a memo.

Is it over? — How bad were most of the early games this week? I found myself wanting to take a nap during Sunday’s afternoon games, when most of the players looked like they were down for the count themselves. When not even Drew Brees can save us, there’s a problem.