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One more reason to hope NFL lockout ends tomorrow

You may be rooting for the lockout to end by tomorrow because July 20 is the official date when players would have started reporting for training camp, but there’s another good reason to hope that the NFL and NFLPA finally come to an agreement on Wednesday.

Free wings.

Buffalo Wild Wings has promised that if the NFL lockout ends on or before July 20, they’ll celebrate by giving away six free wings to everyone in America who signs BWW’s “Save our Season” petition on Facebook. Since the Facebook tab was not loading properly for me, you might have better luck finding the petition here on the Buffalo Wild Wings site.

Yes, this isn’t going to help you in your fantasy football drafts (or will it?), but this provider of fine winged products has been pretty good to the fantasy football community lately. The least we can do is enjoy some free wings if, in fact, their efforts pay off.

Apparently, Buffalo Wild Wings has sent letters to both the NFL and NFLPA, as a representative of sports fans around the country, to plea that a deal be struck so everyone can enjoy some free wings. And they’ve even been so bold as to invite Commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith to wrap up negotiations over beer and wings.

So if the deal gets done before July 20, I guess we’ll see the real power that BWW has over the NFL…or at least enjoy some wings.

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Pondering Christian Ponder: NFL Draft 2011 First Round Fantasy Football Gut Reactions

I don’t get excited about who “won” the draft. I get excited about who I’ll draft for  my fantasy football team.

When it comes to fantasy relevance, the first round didn’t overwhelm us. The 2011 draft set a record for defensive linemen taken in the first round with 12, but it’s hard to say that one defensive end or nose tackle will change the whole dynamic of a team defense. If you play IDP (Independent Defensive Players), those guys will matter to you, but the majority of fantasy players haven’t embraced IDP yet.

In the full list of draftees below, I’ve highlighted a few names in bold that I believe WILL have fantasy value sooner rather than later. Values may change as we (hopefully) enter into a free agency period and as teams decide how soon some of these “quarterbacks of the future” will start. Until then, I only have my gut reactions to the first round.

CAM NEWTON to CAROLINA

The Panthers desperately needed a quarterback that the team could get behind. Sorry, Jimmy Clausen. Cam Newton should get a chance to start soon, but he will have a hard time moving the ball through the air if Steve Smith forces a trade out of Carolina. Newton could start the year in a more limited role, perhaps even as a package quarterback running options and more Wildcat-style plays.

When he does get the chance to start, I could see Cam Newton having some fantasy relevance in 2011 alongside running back Jonathan Stewart, but I’d bank on Stewart carrying the load for this team with some help from Mike Goodson until Newton 1) masters the offense and 2) has some weapons around him in the passing game.

A.J. GREEN to CINCINNATI

Green was a huge get for the Bengals, who may or may not lose Chad Ochocinco this offseason in a trade. As the most talented receiver in his draft class, he’s destined to become an impact player for the Bengals, whether Carson Palmer sticks around or not. If Ochocinco  gets  traded, Green’s fantasy stock will obviously rise, but with the Bengals current roster, he’s worth drafting as a WR3 with WR2 upside.

That said, don’t forget about Jerome Simpson in Cincinnati.

JULIO JONES to ATLANTA

At first glance, you might say that Atlanta overpaid for this pick, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with you. But when you consider what Atlanta needed in this draft and their current roster, it makes sense. In an interview with ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitrioff pointed out how young the Falcons are as a team. They don’t need a bunch of new blood and roster turnover. They just need to fill some holes on defense and to get another playmaker alongside Roddy White on offense.

Obviously, if it works out, no one will complain, and I could see Jones having significant value in the Atlanta offense if they really give Matt Ryan the reigns. I’m a little concerned that Jones’ presence might prevent Roddy White from being the lock for 100 yards and a touchdown he was last season, but if White balances out any Reggie Wayne-like disappearing acts with multiple-touchdown games thanks to Jones, his fantasy owners won’t  complain.

JAKE LOCKER to TENNESSEE

While the Titans drafting Locker is surprising, we don’t yet know if Locker will start right away. Much like Newton, Locker might work behind a veteran quarterback this season while he learns the playbook and the masters the speed of the game at the NFL level. And if he does get a chance to start with a limited playbook, Chris Johnson won’t mind carrying the load for the Titans like he has the past two seasons.

So Locker’s fantasy value is largely dependent on whether he starts this year or not. I don’t see him as a must-draft this season unless you’re looking for a QB2 in a two-quarterback league, but he should be on your radar for 2012.

BLAINE GABBERT to JACKSONVILLE

Some experts say Gabbert will be the best quarterback in this class, but I don’t think we’ll see him on the field for a year, or maybe two, while he learns the Jacksonville offense. I believe it was on ESPN’s draft coverage that they said Jacksonville intended to take the Aaron Rodgers approach with him. I assume that doesn’t mean they’ll keep David Garrard around for a several more years and then trade him to the first team that promises Garrard ample opportunity to text genitalia to female reporters. What do you think?

Dynasty leaguers and keeper leagues might keep an eye on Gabbert, but I doubt he’ll have any fantasy value in 2011.

CHRISTIAN PONDER to MINNESOTA

A bit of a head scratcher, but Ponder will have to be the quarterback of the future now that he’s in Minnesota. They don’t have much else. There’s still some question about whether Sidney Rice will return to the Vikings, and that could greatly affect Ponder’s value.

Of all the rookie quarterbacks with the potential to start right away, Ponder would be last in my rankings. He’s also got Adrian Peterson in the backfield, so there’s no rush as long as he’s got a good hand off. Much like Locker, you might look at Ponder if you’re in a two-quarterback league, but he’d be very, very low on my list.

NICK FAIRLEY to DETROIT

In general, I try to stay away from saying one player will change the value of a team defense, but Detroit’s building on an area of strength by taking Fairley, who some considered to be the best player in this draft up until a few weeks ago. Next to Suh on the Detroit Lions defensive line, Fairley will put up some numbers. If the Lions offense holds up their end, and the defense gets to the quarterback with Suh and Fairley, they’ll be worth consideration as a team defense in 2011.

JONATHAN BALDWIN to KANSAS CITY

I don’t know a whole lot about Jonathan Baldwin, but I’ve seen mixed reactions to him being taken in the first round. According to some analysts, he’s not necessarily a perfect fit for what Kansas City does on offense. Bowe had a huge last half in the 2010 fantasy season, but Baldwin may not immediately share in the fantasy points there.

If you read any of my posts last season, you know I’m not a huge fan of Cassel. I’m probably selling Baldwin a little short just because I see Cassel regressing from his 2010 season. But if you’re looking to draft Baldwin, I’d take him as nothing more than a late-round stash with the potential to be a WR3.

MARK INGRAM to NEW ORLEANS

Depending on who you ask, Ingram will either be a fantasy stud or be just another fantasy dud. Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory are both still in New Orleans. Reggie Bush may or may not get a deal done to return to the Saints. That’s a lot of mouths to feed in an offense that ALSO likes to score points through the air from time to time.

Regardless, I think this eats into Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory’s value significantly. Only time will tell how the Saints adjust around Ingram, but he’s worth RB2 consideration and definitely worth drafting this season. I tend to believe the folks who say he might have RB1 upside. If you can get him for the right price in your fantasy draft, why not take the chance?

FIRST ROUND OF THE 2011 NFL DRAFT

  1. Carolina Panthers >> Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
  2. Denver Broncos >> Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
  3. Buffalo Bills >> Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
  4. Cincinnati Bengals >> A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
  5. Arizona Cardinals >> Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
  6. Atlanta Falcons (from Cleveland) >> Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
  7. San Francisco 49ers >> Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
  8. Tennessee Titans >> Jake Locker, QB, Washington
  9. Dallas Cowboys >> Tyron Smith, OT, USC
  10. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Washington) >> Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
  11. Houston Texans >> J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
  12. Minnesota Vikings >> Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
  13. Detroit Lions >> Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
  14. St. Louis Rams >> Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
  15. Miami Dolphins >> Mike Pouncey, C/OG, Florida
  16. Washington Redskins (from Jacksonville) >> Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
  17. New England Patriots >> Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
  18. San Diego Chargers >> Corey Liuget, DE, Illinois
  19. New York Giants >> Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers >> Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
  21. Cleveland Browns (from Kansas City) >> Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
  22. Indianapolis Colts >> Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
  23. Philadelphia Eagles >> Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
  24. New Orleans Saints >> Cameron Jordan, DC, California
  25. Seattle Seahawks>> James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
  26. Baltimore Ravens >> Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
  27. Kansas City Chiefs (from Cleveland, previously Atlanta’s pick) >> Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
  28. New Orlean Saints (from New England) >> Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
  29. Chicago Bears >> Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
  30. New York Jets >> Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple
  31. Pittsburgh Steelers >> Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
  32. Green Bay Packers >> Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

I’ll have another wrap after the entire draft. Consider this the tease. What do you think of the draft so far? What teams have changed their fantasy value the most in the first three rounds? Let me hear it in the comment below.

Believe it or not, Peyton Hillis is the Juggernaut and More Scoring Leaders from Week 12

I believe it was Andrew Garda who started the #Juggernaut campaign for the Peyton Hillis’ nickname. Once again, it held true this week as Hillis ran over the Panthers for three touchdowns in brutal fashion. Nothing stops that guy. Nothing.

The proof of how great a nickname this is for Hillis is in the Wikipedia:

A juggernaut is a term used in the English language to describe a literal or metaphorical force regarded as unstoppable. It is often applied to a large machine or collectively to a team or group of people working together, or a growing political movement led by a charismatic leader, and often bears association with crushing or being physically destructive.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: 131 rushing yards and 3 TDs, 6 catches for 63 yards vs. Panthers

Hillis crushed it in the first half of this one, and he didn’t have to do much the rest of the game to keep his fantasy owners happy. If you have Hillis, rejoice. If you don’t, well, at least you’re not Josh McDaniels. Not even a fantasy novice would trade Hillis for Brady Quinn. Complete fail there, Joshy Boy.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 13 catches for 170 yards and 3 TDs vs. Seahawks

Bowe does. That’s the only thing I can say at this point. Just like those DROID commercials, Bowe DOES. He’s getting open against even stingy opponents (this one, for the record, not so stingy) thanks to the powerful run game that the Chiefs have put together. There’s no reason not to start him the rest of the way. I’m just as shocked as you are. I honestly didn’t think he, or Cassel, had it in him.

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: 341 passing yards, 4 TDs, 1 rushing yard vs. Lions

Brady put together one of those classic Brady games against the Lions on Thanksgiving. He made all the throws and had a fire raging inside of him both on and off the field. The offense is certainly clicking, but remember: this was the Lions. I don’t know if Brady will be able to produce these stats against the Jets, Bears, and Packers in the next three weeks. But if he gets you to the championship, he faces the Bills.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 233 passing yards, 4 TDs, 28 rushing yards vs. Seahawks

Cassel lucked out when Bowe broke out this season. He should have continued to look overpaid and overstarted, but instead, he’s putting up multiple touchdown games like he’s the less mobile Michael Vick. Will you ride him into the playoffs? Other than the Chargers in Week 14…it seems reasonable to expect you can.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears: 247 passing yards, 4 TDs, 17 rushing yards vs. Eagles

Now THIS Is the Cutler I drafted, ladies and gentlemen. This week he gets the Lions, and I expect this streak to continue. If he could just start blowing people away like I thought he would all season, that’d be great, especially since I just lost Frank Gore.

Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: 308 passing yards, 3 TDs vs. Broncos

The rookie finally reached great heights, 300+ passing yards, even though it was just barely 300 passing yards. And there should really be a deduction when all the scores go to tight ends. Do you know what a wide receiver is Sam Bradford? Those things that can’t stay healthy for you. Well, there ARE still more on your team.

The rookie’s got a pretty nice schedule the rest of the way, if you’re daring enough to believe that this Week 12 performance was the start of his rise. I think this is a spike in his production, but it could carry over into Week 13 against the Cardinals.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: 59 rushing yards, 5 catches for 104 yards and 1 TD

Matchup proof? Just maybe. He was phenomenal when he last held the starting gig down in Buffalo, and he made it work this week against the Steelers rough defense. He’ll be tested further against a rejuvenated Vikings’ defense, the Browns, and the Dolphins. But if he’s the guy you have to lean on, I think you can count on consistent, if not spectacular, production.

Maurice Morris, RB, Lions: 55 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 5 catches for 20 yards vs. Patriots

Best really is done for the season, and Morris showed us what a healthy back can do in this offense. He was delivered to the goal line twice by the Lions offense and took advantage with his two scores. But now he’s really done for the year. There’s nothing pretty about the rest of his schedule.

Mike Goodson, RB, 55 rushing yards and 1 TD, 8 catches for 81 yards vs. Browns

The lone bright spot in this offense in recent weeks, Goodson looks like a future star. He shared time with The Daily Show John Stewart this week, but he should not lose more carries than he has already to the fellow runner. Goodson’s earning his spot for 2011, when DeAngelo Williams will probably be out-of-town. He’s not a bad start against the Seahawks in Week 13.

Deion Branch, WR, Patriots: 3 catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs vs. Lions

Branch’s precise routes and nose for the end zone made the Lions secondary, and especially Alphonso Smith, just look baaaad. Too bad you’ll never know which Patriots wide receiver not named Wes Welker is going to show up in the stats column in any given week.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders: 13 rushing yards, 4 catches for 108 yards and 1 TD, 1 return TD vs. Dolphins

Ford looks like the only wide receiver worth trusting in Oakland. He had these numbers with Gradkowski at quarterback, but he have Campbell for the rest of the season. That’s still good news since Campbell was the one who “found” him a few weeks ago, but the Raiders would prefer to keep the ball on the ground if McFadden gets back to action. He still might because the Oakland schedule is pretty nice in Weeks 14-16.

Ben Obomanu, WR, Seahawks: 5 catches for 159 yards and 1 TD vs. Chiefs

The Chiefs were missing their best corner and let Obo break loose for a long score late in this one. Otherwise, his fantasy points wouldn’t have been nearly as generous. Still, he’s got significant value as long as Big Mike Williams is sidelined and retains some value even after he returns. It looks like Williams will be back for Week 13.

Earl Bennett, WR, Bears: 4 catches for 56 yards and 2 TDs vs. Eagles

Is this chemistry between the two former Vandy stars? Cutler sought out Bennett twice by the goal line, and while we can’t say it’s going to continue, Bennett isn’t a bad grab as the second wide receiver in this offense that finally seems to be clicking.

Billy Bajema, TE, Rams: 3 catches for 32 yards and 2 TDs vs. Broncos

Bradford loved his tight ends on Sunday, but Bajema is no great talent. He’s the only tight end in St. Louis with Hoomanawanui sidelined, but I still wouldn’t trust him in the fantasy playoffs.

Nate Kaeding, K, Chargers: 5/5 on field goals and 3 XPs vs. Colts

Not a bad game back for the recovering kicker. If your team is getting held back by a sub-par kicker, go snag Kaeding now that he’s back in action.

On defenses: The Chargers D/ST feasted on Peyton Manning’s interceptions in this one as he uncharacteristically turned the ball over a whopping four times. Don’t expect it to be so easy the rest of the season, but the Chargers D/ST has certainly come on at the right time for fantasy owners.

On productive Bills wideouts: Steve Johnson was not a winner on this list in Week 12, but I expect him to bounce back. As long as God doesn’t smite him for calling him out on Twitter, that is.

Believe it or not, Scoring Leaders for Week 11: If you don’t have multiples, you’re just not trying hard enough

Your fantasy studs only scored once? Well, that’s just child’s play. The real studs scored twice or more on Sunday, and they should easily do the same a time or two before the fantasy football playoffs are over. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: 275 passing yards and 3 TDs, 55 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Raiders

Much like a high school girl at her prom, Big Ben hates it when other teams dress up like the Steelers. The Raiders have been wearing black and putting teams away with a running game and a defense. That just won’t fly. So I guess Big Ben was trying to make a point when he exposed them on Sunday.

The Steelers walked all over the Raiders all day long. Roethlisberger benefited from the absence of Nnamdi Asomugha. When this offense is firing on all cylinders, as it seems to be now, they’re hard to stop.

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: 7 catches for 152 yards and 3 TDs vs. Vikings

Aaron Rodgers reminded all Jennings’ owners why they drafted him: He’s the No. 1 wide receiver on a highly explosive offense. They got rolling against the Vikings in a blowout, and Jennings was doing damage in both big and small chunks.

It was good to see him targeted in the red zone in addition to his targets from long-range. He should continue to produce down the stretch since he is Rodgers’ most reliable target for now.

Steve Johnson, WR, Bills: 8 catches for 137 yards, 3 TDs vs. Bengals

I thought this Bills passing game would have cooled off by now, but just when you think they’re done, they come roaring back. Steve Johnson absolutely destroyed the Bengals in the second half.

Johnson’s probably going to end up being the waiver wire pickup of the year. He’s scored in almost every game he’s played in with Fitzpatrick under center. Those numbers are going to be hard to beat as long as this passing game stays red-hot throughout the playoffs, even as Buffalo freezes over.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: 301 passing yards and 4 TDs, 21 rushing yards vs. Vikings

A big fantasy day for Jennings means a big fantasy day for Rodgers, but you know this. He’s one of the top quarterbacks in fantasy. This stat line is what you expected out of him in easy matchups when you drafted him. He poured it on the Vikings, led by the man he replaced, Favre.

This game was like watching a little kid jump up and down on Brett Favre’s sandcastle, all while Brett had to watch his creation go to pieces. I kind of enjoyed it.

Without a doubt, we can say that the Packers made the right call in moving on from Favre to Rodgers when they did. No team that’s tried to make it work with Favre has succeeded.

The Packers have turned into a very scary team just at the right time as fantasy playoffs (and the real NFL playoffs) approach.

Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys: 147 passing yards and 3 TDs, 40 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Lions

I played it safe this week by starting Shaun Hill out of fear that the Cowboys would concentrate on their running game after establishing an early lead. They didn’t, unless you count that late rushing score by Kitna as the running game. Jason Garrett’s perfectly comfortable calling passing plays the whole game, and that works for Kitna’s fantasy owners.

Kitna ended the day without much yardage, but he scored a ton, making him the better play over Shaun Hill. It seems they’ll both be great plays down the stretch, as both the Cowboys and Lions love to throw the ball.

Kitna should be owned in all leagues and has a great schedule in Weeks 15 and 16 of the fantasy playoffs as long as Romo doesn’t return.

This part is the place where I would list Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, but I’ll skip them. I assume you know the drill when it comes to those guys.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills: 316 passing yards and 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 11 rushing yards vs. Bengals

What looked like a quiet performance turned into a fantasy explosion late when the Bills mounted a comeback. I don’t know whether to be impressed with how overpowering the Bills were in this one or to just acknowledge how absolutely horrid the Bengals are. No one wants to win badly enough in Cincy. Too bad.

Fitzpatrick has had a few rough patches along the way, but if he keeps playing this aggressively, it’s hard to say he won’t produce another fantasy day or two like this one in the next few weeks.

Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets: 7 catches for 126 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

Another week, another come-from-behind victory capped off by a Holmes touchdown pass from Sanchez. The Jets’ unpredictable performance in winnable games has become predictable again. And you can count on Holmes to remain the focus in the passing game from here on out.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: 116 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 3 catches for 13 yards vs. Bengals

Even Jackson got in on the fantasy field day to be had against the Bengals. His schedule isn’t so easy, and he faces the Steelers this week after they just completely stuffed Darren McFadden…but if you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, Jackson has a game like this left in him.

He still has matchups against the Vikings and Patriots on the schedule, and I’m not too worried about C.J. Spiller cutting into his production when he returns later this season.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: 315 passing yards and 3 TDs, 1 INT, 22 rushing yards vs. Texans

The Texans are horrible, and Sanchez took advantage. Moral of the story: Always start the quarterback playing the Texans. Enough said.

A note on D/STs that did well…

If you were looking for an impressive D/ST performance, you got it out of the Browns and Ravens. If they’re not owned, the Browns make for an intriguing play the rest of the way, and they face the Panthers this week.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 6 catches for 109 yards, 2 TDs vs. Cardinals

Okay, okay. I keep saying he’s going to fade down the stretch, and yet, here we are with another huge fantasy day and multiple touchdowns for Bowe. I guess you have to start him until he cools off. That’s not such a bad problem to have, is it?

Believe it or not: Scoring Leaders from Week 10: Congrats on your win, Michael Vick owners

What’s this? A blast from your past? Well, since we didn’t get a chance to get to the top scores from Week 10, we’re giving it to you now. Maybe watching your team march towards victory in Week 11 will dull the pain of these performances that killed you just seven days ago.

Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: 333 passing yards and 4 TDs, 80 rushing yards and 2 TDs vs. Redskins

I had clearly lost going into Monday night of last week by just four points. It was a bad week. But as a looked at my score one last time Monday just before kickoff, I saw that my opponent had done the unthinkable, the unfathomable, the un-understandable. He started the Redskins D/ST and Ryan Torain with a victory clearly assured.

Now, if you were a thinking man, you’d probably have a hard time comprehending any reason to do this, but my opponent, in this case, was actually working with some unusual, but logical reasoning.

Our dear commish had put in his head that he needed as many points as possible to compete in the total points scored race, the tiebreaker for playoffs spots in this league. So seeing that he had won, he still felt the need to start the Redskins D/ST because they had never scored negative points and because he’d also have Ryan Torain playing in the game anyway.

As we already know, that reasoning dissolved quickly. Torain struggled to loosen his hamstring before the game and was held out of the Monday night festivities, despite being declared active just minutes before the game. And Washington’s defense collapsed early and often against Michael Vick.

I needed 28 or more points from the Eagles to get to a tie. I got that much and more in the first half alone.

The 59-28 Monday night performance was one for the ages for Vick. It’s hard for me to understand how any team starting Vick could have lost Week 10, and if you didn’t start Vick…man, I bet that hurts.

That said, I don’t think we’ll see Vick perform like this again this fantasy season. After all, he’s done playing the Redskins this year. But Vick certainly established himself as one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the game. I wouldn’t consider benching him for anyone except the top quarterbacks in fantasy  (Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees).

Oh, and I won my Week 10 matchup with the tiebreaker. Thank you very much, Vick.

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: 350 passing yards and 3 TDs, 3 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Steelers

We’re used to seeing this kind of stat line from the Brady of old, the Brady that had Randy Moss, but this game caught most off-guard. The Patriots have traditionally performed well against the Steelers, and Belichick once again had their number in this one.

Brady dissected the Steelers’ usually stout defense and made Rob Gronkowski look like a superstar. But just like everything Belichick and the Patriots do, this fantasy production was a product of the system, and that system changes every week. You never know when Brady will go off for big points, but when the matchup is right, he’s still got it.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 469 passing yards and 4 TDs vs. Broncos

There’s a common theme developing in these top scores this week, or at least the ones I chose to highlight. Cassel did most of his damage during garbage time in a high-scoring affair as the Chiefs got blown out by the Broncos.

He rallied the troops to score four touchdowns, but it was all because they had to abandon the run. I’d expect Cassel to cool off as the season progresses. He just had a nice run of easy defensive matchups in recent weeks.

Keiland Williams, RB, Redskins: 80 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 4 catches for 50 receiving yards and 1 TD vs. Eagles

Shanahan could probably start himself at running back and score two touchdowns. Williams was just the latest guy to get the call. That doesn’t mean he won’t have another great game in his future.

He could as long as Ryan Torain and Clinton Portis don’t cut into his time, but with Portis back this week, I think Williams is on his way back to the shadows. Most of these points came in garbage time with the Eagles D/ST cruising towards a victory.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 13 catches for 186 yards and 2 TDs vs. Broncos

As I noted under Cassel, Bowe’s dominance these past few weeks has been a result of easy passing matchups for the Chiefs. The schedule gets a little tougher down the stretch. So if you can  unload Bowe in a trade for someone like Darren McFadden, DO IT! I’m not sure you can rely on Bowe during your fantasy playoffs.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: 133 rushing yards and 1 TD, 6 catches for 37 yards and 1 TD vs. Lions

C.J. Spiller went down with an hamstring injury, and he left all the work to Jackson against the Lions.

When he’s been  given the chance, Jackson has impressed in the past. Remember his 2009 campaign? At one time, he was the top back in fantasy last season. But his matchups aren’t too pretty. We’ll have to see how much the Bills rely on him now that he’s the guy for the next few weeks.

If he really does become the unquestioned rushing force in Buffalo and if he gets plenty of targets in the passing game, he could be a great flex start for the rest of the season.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: 5 catches for 72 yards and 3 TDs vs. Steelers

The Patriots had the perfect game plan to attack the Steelers. Gronkowski was a big part of what made that plan so successful. But once again, the system is the only thing you can count on when it comes to the Patriots, and we may never see Gronkowski so involved in the offense as he was in Week 10.

Aaron Hernandez is likely to retake his role in the offense in Week 11 against the Colts, and Gronkowski, in that case, would return to being a all-or-nothing play at tight end, depending on whether he scores or not.

Don’t expect Gronkowski to get on the field this much in every game. He was part of the formation that the Patriots used to beat the Steelers, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be the answer to what other teams try to do to stop Tom Brady and his crew. There’s also a good chance that the next team the Patriots face will choose to cover Gronkowski more closely.

Believe it or not: Bad franchises, big fantasy points with Peyton Hillis, Matthew Stafford, and Jacoby Ford as Week 9 Scoring Leaders

This week’s high scores include members of teams you wouldn’t expect to produce fantasy powerhouses. The Browns? The Lions? The Raiders?  Parity is the name of the game this season, as even these recently terrible franchises have produced fantasy gold.

Hillis looks like a top back the rest of the way. The Raiders continue to put up points no matter who has to catch the ball and clear the way for Darren McFadden. And the Lions continue to scare teams who don’t take them seriously.

If you had one of these scoring leaders on your roster, you should have won this week. If not…well, at least there’s hope for the future.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: 184 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 3 catches for 36 yards vs. Patriots

You have to wonder how former Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels felt watching Hillis destroy the Patriots on the ground for another former Patriots coordinator’s team. Eric Mangini certainly looks like he won on this trade. The Broncos have no running game, and the Browns are all running game with Hillis.

Now that he’s fully healthy after their bye and with Colt McCoy starting for the Browns, Hillis should continue to grind out these tough yards. As long as he can get in the end zone, he’ll produce at a high level. His schedule poses few challenges.

Next week he gets the Jets, and the only other two teams who might stand a chance at slowing him down are the Dolphins in Week 13 and the Ravens in Week 16. He also get the Steelers in Week 17 if you play your fantasy championships the last week of the year — but why, WHY are you doing that?

Green Bay Packers D/ST: 7 points against, 2 INTs, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 TDs vs. Cowboys

The Cowboys gave up this game before the kickoff, and the Green Bay defense took advantage of Jon Kitna, who seemed like the only player other than Dez Bryant who had any interest in playing.

As many have stated throughout recent weeks, somehow the Packers manage to put together a great defensive game plan no matter how many players they lose to injury. But they hardly had to try against the Cowboys.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals: 10 catches for 141 yards, 2 TDs vs. Steelers

The fact that T.O. is good this year still puzzles me. He stepped into a team with a proven wide receiver and replaced him entirely (and with more success). Those who drafted him will continue to benefit from Palmer’s force-feeding of the ball to T.O., especially late in games when the Bengals are down. That happens often.

Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: 218 passing yards and 1 TD, 74 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Colts

Those owners who held onto Vick throughout his injury should reap the rewards now. He stepped onto the field and right back into his previous form. Other than two matchups against the Giants, the Eagles schedule should be a big bag o’ fun for the Eagles.

Circle Week 13 if it’s the first week of your fantasy playoffs. The Eagles face the Texans very terrible defense at home in Philly.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: 240 passing yards and 2 TDs, 1 INT, 11 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Jets

Stafford surprised many by dismantling the Jets defense right up until he got hurt again. That’s right: Hurt. AGAIN. Stafford could have been a savior for many a fantasy team late in the season, and this showdown against the Jets only proved how talented he is (and how good he can make the Lions). But it looks like he’ll go back on ice for a few weeks.

Stafford’s fantasy owners have to hope that Shaun Hill is healthy enough to start Week 10. Drew Stanton just doesn’t cut it as a Stafford stand-in.

Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers: 4 catches for 111 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

Yeah, you try to say that. I’m glad I just have to type it. But Seyi Ajirotutu showed up big for those who took a chance on him as a sleeper.

After the Chargers bye, he’ll probably be relegated to a lesser role with Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, and Legedu Naanee likely to return to the field. Vincent Jackson will also soon be in the mix. But those who benefited from Ajirotutu’s big Week 9 should hold onto him if possible. Philip Rivers might not soon forget his big play potential.

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings: 446 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Cardinals

Does the old man still have it? I don’t think so. But he showed signs of life this week against the Cardinals in willing the Vikings to a win in overtime. The rest of his schedule shouldn’t be so kind — other than possibly the Bills. It’s hard to trust Favre as a fantasy quarterback down the stretch as the games matter more than ever.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders: 6 catches for 148 yards, 1 kickoff return TD vs. Chiefs

Jacoby Ford is proof of one thing: ANYONE is better than throwing to Darrius Heyward-Bey. With every receiving weapon for the Raiders out due to injury, DHB still managed to catch nothing.

On the other hand/side of the field, Ford emerged as a great deep weapon, which could mean he keeps the speedster role when Louis Murphy returns to the lineup. He’s on bye but worth a pickup this week, for sure. Other than against the Steelers in Week 11, the Raiders could make good use of Ford throughout the rest of their schedule.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers: 42 rushing yards and 1 TD, 4 catches for 26 yards and 1 TD vs. Cowboys

The Packers defense created so many turnovers that the Packers had to run the ball, and Jackson proved his worth in the short-yardage situations he was given. Those who paid a high price for him early in the season (as I did) can only hope that the Packers look to develop their ground game as the weather turns cold late in the season.

Clearly, Jackson will put points on the board when he’s given a chance, but this game against the Cowboys was not the norm. Let’s see what they do against a real opponent (if you can call the Vikings that) after their bye week.

Believe it or not: Jags, DHB, LeGarrette Blount come alive while Jamaal Charles, Foster, Lloyd showoff in Week 8

There are a few head-scratchers in this mix. So don’t get too excited on the waiver wire, but here are a few of the week’s top performers.

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: 260 yards, 4 TDs, 1 fumble, 2 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD vs. Cowboys

Unfortunately, you can’t trust Garrard. Ever. He’ll have a game like this against the now-quitting Cowboys and follow it up with a stinker against a pitiful defense. If this performance convinces any owner to pay a decent price for his services, SELL SELL SELL.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: 9 catches for 101 yards, 3 TDs vs. Redskins
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: 212 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT vs. Redskins

A huge fantasy day for these two young Lions’ stars made plenty of owners happy. The good news: Stafford should keep getting the ball to Megatron on a regular basis. Shaun Hill was putting up numbers like a top fantasy quarterback until he went down, and Stafford is more talented. Next week against the Jets, the Lions will face a greater challenge, but Stafford’s a clear must-own the rest of the way.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots: 112 yards, 2 TDs, 1 catch for 11 yards vs. Vikings

Just when we thought Danny Woodhead was the back you wanted to own in the Patriots’ offense, they change things up and go back to the “Law Firm” (BenJarvus Green-Ellis). It’s impossible to know what Belichick is thinking, but those in need can take a chance on Green-Ellis until the next Belichick tinkering hands off the ball to someone else.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: 177 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards (238 total) vs. Bills

He’s capable of much more if only he didn’t have to share the rock with Thomas Jones. Maybe this lack of opportunity is all to keep Charles fresh for the playoffs, but it’s got to be incredibly frustrating for Charles and his fantasy owners. He’s bound to see increased touches as the season goes on. Haley’s got to be thinking the same, right?

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Broncos: 7 catches for 169 yards, 1 TD vs. 49ers

It’s always good to see your studs get back on track. Lloyd put together another amazing performance in this one after a couple of quiet weeks. Clearly, Orton only has eyes for Lloyd in this offense, and that’s a good thing for all the Lloyd owners out there.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans: 102 yards, 1 TD, 9 catches for 65 yards vs. Colts

Speaking of back on track, this stat line was not quite as amazing as Foster’s last performance against the Colts, but he didn’t disappoint any owners. Foster should keep on rolling unless he gets injured enough to give way to Derrick Ward.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Bucs: 120 yards, 2 TDs vs. Cardinals

I told you that you should grab him. Now, it’s probably too late. It looks like Blount will be the workhorse running back for the Bucs from here on out.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jags: 8 catches for 153 yards, 1 TD vs. Cowboys

With Garrard returning to the field, Sims-Walker returned to fantasy relevance. His owners have to hope this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship — between their Sims-Walker and the end zone. But keep in mind that Marcedes Lewis remains in the mix when the Jags get in the red zone, and he scored twice on Sunday against the Cowboys. His emergence as a touchdown machine will hurt Sims-Walker’s production all season long.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: 6 catches for 72 yards, 2 TDs vs. Bucs

Yes, he’s alive.

Dan Carpenter, K, Dolphins: 5/5 FGs, 1 XP vs. Bengals

A kicker among the scoring leaders? It seems to happen every week. The Dolphins’ Carpenter has a great leg, if you’re looking for that kind of thing. It’s just hard to get excited about fantasy kickers.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders: 5 catches for 105 yards, 1 TD vs. Seahawks

DHB was really the only Raiders’ receiving target left standing this week, and with no one to compete with for catches, he actually did something. His Week 8 performance showed us what he’s capable of if the stars align and if he catches the ball. More to come? To be determined. But he’s worth a grab as stash/sleeper play going into Week 9. The Raiders are likely to keep Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens out until after their bye week in Week 10.

Believe it or not: Darren McFadden, Kenny Britt, Buffalo Bills blow up as Week 7 Scoring Leaders

The NFL makes no sense this year. Call it parity. Call it “le suck.” Call it whatever you want. Several of the teams we thought would be fantasy powerhouses are not (Cowboys, Chargers, Patriots) while many of the teams we wrote off as bad bets for fantasy are putting up good numbers (Browns, Rams, Bills). In the words of Chris Berman, I guess “that’s why the play the games.”

Oh, and it was brutal being a Dallas  Cowboys and Texas Longhorns fan this weekend.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: 165 yards, 3 TDs, 2 catches for 31 yards, 1 TD vs. Broncos

I guess they replaced McFadden’s hamstring with a bionic leg because he showed no indications of any hamstring injury on Sunday. Michael Bush owners, myself included, have to be disappointed that McFadden chose this year to breakout of his early career slump when Bush was slotted as the starter for Week 1. But McFadden’s clearly come into his elite form as the No. 1 back here.

On the plus side, Bush did an equal helping of carries, but McFadden did more with his early in the game and got the first three rushing scores. McFadden will continue to be a must start while Bush could remain a reliable RB2 with upside if McFadden is injured again this year.

Kenny Britt, WR, Titans: 7 catches for 225 yards, 3 TDs vs. Eagles

So I guess there’s a trend when a player is forced to sit out at least one quarter. Just like Arian Foster, Britt didn’t need four quarters to blow us all away. Clearly, he’s the receiver to own in Tennessee and has finally earned his spot among the top of the fantasy wide receiver class. I don’t know that he’ll have another three-score performance this season, but he could definitely put up WR2 numbers the rest of the way.

As an added bonus, he seems to perform regardless of his quarterback. Both Vince Young and Kerry Collins can make him valuable. Just be on the lookout for any team punishment that comes down on Britt for the bar fight he was involved in last week (and for which he sat out that first quarter on Sunday).

Roddy White, WR, Falcons: 11 catches for 201 yards, 2 TDs vs. Bengals

White was due for a breakout performance, and he had it this week — probably just because I traded him away in a package that got improved my quarterback situation with…Romo. Bah, I lose again.

White will continue to be one of the top receivers in fantasy, even if he doesn’t have another 20+ point week this year.

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals: 412 yards, 3 TDs vs. Falcons

The Bengals got in a hole early against the Falcons, which forced them to set Palmer lose. While he put up plenty of yards and touchdowns, they still didn’t win.

Since the Bengals only rely on Palmer when they get down by double digits, it’s hard to predict when he’ll have these big games. So it’s probably best if you look elsewhere for your fantasy quarterbacking.

Lee Evans, WR, Bills: 6 catches for 105 yards, 3 TDs vs. Ravens

Old-unfaithful just had a season’s worth of stats in one game. Lee Evans? Really? The Bills somehow pulled a fast one of the Ravens this week, and even though they let Baltimore come roaring right back, the Bills showed they have some fantasy weight to throw around. I guess we should take a chance starting Evans. His fantasy points have been on the rise ever since Fitzpatrick took over as the starting quarterback.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills: 373 yards, 4 TDs vs. Ravens

Speaking of Fitzpatrick, his stat line wasn’t too shabby either. He lost the game, but pride…he’s got plenty of that to go around.

Popular opinion seems to think he can’t keep this up. But people said the same thing about Orton earlier in the year, and Orton’s still chugging along despite a disappointing day against the Raiders.

Fitzpatrick could be this year’s Tyler Thigpen, a second-half stud.

Michael Turner, RB, Falcons: 121 yards, 2 TDs, 2 catches for 23 yards vs. Bengals

Turner benefited from Atlanta’s big lead this week against the Bengals, but he’s still not quite the fantasy back you drafted him to be. Feel free to sell if you get a good price after this two score performance.

David Gettis, WR, Panthers: 8 catches for 125 yards, 2 TDs vs. 49ers

Gettis emerged in Week 7 as the best Panthers’ receiver not named Steve Smith. He’ll be on a lot of waiver wires this week, but his big game can largely be attributed to Steve Smith’s time spent on the sidelines dealing with an injury.

Since this was Matt Moore’s first game back as the Carolina starter, you should try to grab Gettis just in case this chemistry develops into true fantasy value.

Cleveland Browns D/ST: 17 points allowed, 4 INTs, 2 TDs (pick 6s) vs. Saints

Well, when you get four picks from Drew Brees, and you return two of them for touchdowns, even the Browns can make it happen.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: 131 yards, 1 TD, 2 catches for 41 yards vs. Packers

In case you didn’t realize he was good…

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys: 4 catches for 54 yards, 2 TDs, 93-yard punt return TD vs. Giants

In a horrible Cowboys performance, Dez Bryant was the lone bright spot. If Kitna continues to look his way, Bryant will make his owners proud in the second half of the season. He should be on a roster in every league, even without Romo around.

Believe it or not: Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel teammates benefit and More Scoring Leaders from Week 6

Each week, “Believe it or not” highlights those fantasy football studs (or mistakes) who score over 20 points in ESPN standard scoring and whether we can trust them to ever do it again.

The Kansas City Chiefs might have contributed more this week to the fantasy football community than they will all year, but it was nice that knowing how to properly spell Cassel’s last name finally paid off.

Kevin Kolb, QB, Eagles: 326 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Falcons

And Michael Vick is still the starter when he gets back? I think that’s not as clear cut as it used to be, Mr. Reid. It just might be time for another emergency press conference in Philly.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: 7 catches for 159 yards, 2 TDs vs. Falcons

Kolb was so good on Sunday, he made his receiver one of the top scorers as well, and Maclin was just one of the two wide receivers he hit twice for touchdowns. Like I said, is it time to think twice about sitting Kolb and going back to a probably-not-100-percent Michael Vick? QB-by-rotation maybe? You know you’re thinking about it, Andy.

Let’s play a little game of “One of these things is not like the others.”

Drew Brees, QB, Saints: 263 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Bucs
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: 220 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Vikings
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: 257 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT vs. Browns
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 201 yards, 3 TDs vs. Texans
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: 305 yards, 2 TDs,  vs. Chiefs
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: 313 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD vs. Dolphins
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: 285 yards, 2 TDs vs. Patriots
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: 307 yards, 2 TDs vs. Redskins

Most of these quarterbacks are current or sometimes members of the elite–Brees, Romo, Big Ben (elite lady skills!), Schaub, Rodgers, and Manning. The real shocker isn’t how they produced this week but who ended up among them, Matt Cassel. The rightfully mocked Chiefs quarterback actually took advantage of the soft Texans matchup…but that only means people will believe in him enough to start him in Week 7 against the Jaguars.

I have my doubts Cassel will ever do it again, but if he is going to, it will be against the Jaguars, who have been the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde of the NFL this season.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 6 catches for 108 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

If given a quarterback, Bowe showed us in Week 6 that he still knows where the scoring happens (in the end zone). He made the Texans look bad, but they do a pretty good job of that each week with their passing defense. His fantasy value lives and dies by Cassel’s ability to get him the ball. You might take advantage of a big Week 5 (and possibly Week 6 against Jacksonville) to shop Bowe for someone a little more consistent. In other words, sell high.

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins: 100 yards, 2 TDs vs. Colts

I shed a silent tear Sunday night as I watched Torain rampage all over the Colts defense. I chose to start Michael Bush over him. Thanks again, Jason Campbell, for ruining the few things that were pure and good about that Oakland offense this week. Torain is the man in Washington, probably even after Clinton Portis returns from injury (if he ever does, that is). But feel free to sell high if you made out like a champ by snagging him on the waiver wire.

Arian Foster, RB, Texans: 71 yards, 2 TDs vs. Chiefs

Oh, and Foster’s back at it even with Derrick Ward taking a score of his own. I think it’s safe to say he’s going to keep doing this. He’s only had one truly bad week and that came against the Giants revitalized defense.

A promising beginning for Colt McCoy? ESPN doesn’t think so.

Going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is a tough task for any quarterback, but when you draw that challenge as the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns…and as your first NFL start…well, that’s nearly impossible. As such, ESPN has their doubts about Colt McCoy this week, not that you were thinking about starting him.

Colt McCoy (Cleveland Browns) Fantasy Point Projection of 2 on ESPN.com

I guess you could do worse in your first start...

With Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme injured (and, in Jake’s case, maybe even if he was healthy enough to take the field), McCoy is the best they’ve got. As a Longhorn, I’ll hope the best for the kid, but this debut might get ugly. Consider this your “McCoy’s potential as a starter in the NFL” open thread if you’d like to put your own opinion on record.

UPDATE: Since this screenshot was taken, ESPN has updated their projections to list Delhomme at 4 points, assuming he will get the start. McCoy has been downgraded to 0 points. Still, there’s a good chance this game falls on McCoy’s shoulders this weekend because Delhomme looked like half a man last week on his bum ankle.