Wild Card Weekend, Part 2: Sunday’s Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

After a day’s worth of exciting, close games, Sunday is all about defense. The Ravens, Dolphins, Eagles and Vikings have all made a habit of getting after the quarterback and stopping the run.

In a playoff setting, I don’t think we see a lot of points today unless the Vikings or Eagles blow it open.

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins

The Ravens ended on a hot streak, but Joe Flacco has done very little these past few weeks. In the playoffs, the Dolphins are going to shut down the run game, and I don’t think Flacco can compensate with a limited amount of turnovers coming his way from Chad Pennington’s excellent game management.

Miami should take care of the ball and get it done, and I think the star of the game is Chad Pennington. Davone Bess is a nice play as a possession receiver, but unless this game gets broken open, Ted Ginn Jr. should have only a few shots make it into his hands.

On the running side of the ball, it’s hard to like anyone. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, much like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, have been back and forth all season, but Brown is the better bet here. Baltimore’s running committee has only one name you need to know, McClain.

LeRon McClain runs hard enough to get his, but he won’t be breaking 70+ yard plays in this one like he did against the Cowboys. Other than him, you don’t want to rely on Willis McGahee to make an appearance or Ray Rice to get a chance.

Derrick Mason is probably the best chance of a “big play” receiver in this game, where defense should rule the day. Even though he is injured, he won’t sit out this playoff appearance. Flacco will be targeting him if they need to score.

You could take a flier on Anthony Fasano at tight end, but he and Todd Heap probably won’t be doing much more than blocking.

If you want to take a kicker in this one, I think Matt Stover is a safe bet because the Ravens are bound to find themselves in several long third down situations. And now that I said that, Stover will have one field goal and an extra point in this game.

Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings

Donovan McNabb and the Eagles are riding a hot streak, and it hasn’t been inspired by Brian Westbrook. That’s a good sign heading into a run-stopping defense like Minnesota. McNabb should play some inspired football and expose a weak Viking secondary. There’s no telling who his leading receivers will be, but I like   McNabb in this game.

The Vikings should lean on the run, but Adrian Peterson, struggling through injuries, should be able to do very little as long as the Eagles bring it like they did against the Cowboys. Brian Dawkins and the Eagles defense are ferocious when called upon.

I think this game gets pinned on Tarvaris Jackson, and he doesn’t have the tools to keep up with McNabb just yet.

For fantasy, I have to like McNabb and Bernard Berrian, simply because Berrian will be a big target in the Vikings offense when the run is stopped. Visanthe Shiancoe should show up to make some big plays, but in the end, I think you’re better off owning Eagles than Vikings.

This contest will probably be back and forth, but the Eagles start scoring on defense, they could run away with it. David Akers and Ryan Longwell are both decent kickers for this game.

Wild Card Weekend, Part 1: Saturday’s Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Here we are in the postseason, and just because the regular season is over, that doesn’t mean your fantasy football season has to come to and end.

Before we dive into our offseason coverage on how to make you a better fantasy football player and more attractive to the opposite sex, we’ll be covering the playoffs “game preview” style and starting with this week’s Wild Card Weekend.

In fact, I’ll be playing the ESPN Gridiron Playoff Challenge just to satisfy the itch for a few more weeks. You have no idea how good a hit it is…

I’d offer prizes, but then I would have to give something away — and didn’t we just do enough of that this holiday season. As a worthy substitute, you could consider joining up with the Bruno Boys’ league and stealing some of their prized booty.

Now, on to the previews … that’s why you’re here anyway, not for the Booty.

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals

Holy crap! The Buzzsaw in the postseason IN Arizona — and they barely sold enough tickets. I am not sure who takes this game. I know the Cardinals have the horrible playoff reputation and the shaky games as of late, but if you don’t think that Anquan Boldin is going to be head slamming people to make a playoff win happen, then you just don’t respect your facial bones.

You have to love Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin here in what could be a high-scoring affair. Matt Ryan won’t be a slouch, but rookie quarterbacks don’t have a good record in the playoffs.

Michael Turner is the best lock there is in this game — and I’m starting him. If Atlanta does get the win, it will be because of Turner. The Cardinals could let him go off early in the game even if the Falcons don’t get to control the clock with a lead in the second half.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, have a risky situation at running back with Edgerrin James likely to get a start and Tim Hightower vulturing touchdowns. I’d take James if you need a yardage guy, but I’m not sure you can bet on the Cardinals scoring enough on the ground to make Hightower a good play.

If it came down to salary cap, I’d pay the price for Turner and Warner if you can afford it. More power to you if you can afford to grab Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald, but I dislike the probability that one goes off in spite of the other. They are two-headed receiving beast, and it’s hard to pick just one.

Roddy White makes a great bargain since we know he’ll be targeted quite a bit by the rookie QB and faces a Cardinals defense always ready to give up the big play — even to Tarvaris Jackson. White’s good for at least one score, and he’s more of a sure thing than the Arizona receivers.

I’m projecting this one ends up on the over rather than the under — currently set at an over/under of 51 points. If you can get your hands on any of these guys, I’d do it. There probably won’t be much kicking in this one, but Jason Elam and Neil Rackers should see a little short action when drives are stalled short of a score. I’d lean towards Elam.

And, obviously, I wouldn’t look to start either of these teams on defense this weekend.

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers

It’s actually a good thing that this game is away. Even though the Colts looked more at home in their new stadium late in the season, it’s not quite the comfort zone it should be yet, and they already beat the Chargers in San Diego once at h this year. Now, they just have to go back and do it again.

In the first matchup, it was a close contest decided by a game-ending kick from Adam Vinatieri. The Chargers just left too much time on the clock when they tied it up and gave the ball back to Peyton Manning. It’ll probably look a lot similar tonight.

The Chargers, a quarterback-friendly team this year, just don’t have enough on defense to stop Peyton Manning on a game-winning drive. His will should be the deciding factor.

That said, Peyton Manning is probably the best fantasy bet you can take this postseason with Rivers just slightly behind him. Both quarterbacks have gone off several times this season, but Manning has the Chargers defense in his favor and a hot streak on his way into the playoffs.

The Colts defense, while questionable, is pretty good against the pass, and they could at least encourage San Diego to take a different approach.

The Chargers will probably look to LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles to support their efforts and keep Manning off the field, so I like both of them. For salary cap purposes, I’d actually go with a bargain in Darren Sproles, who had two touchdowns to L.T.’s three in the season finale against the Broncos. Sproles’ explosiveness is worth betting on for the price he’ll run you.

UPDATE: With news breaking of L.T.’s injury, Sproles looks like an even better play. L.T. will still make a go of it, but it’s hard to say how much he will be able to do. Looks unlikely that he’ll be a big factor.

The Colts backs are not nearly as valuable. There are too many question marks around Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes to trust them. Even when Addai starts, Rhodes sometimes gets the scores. I’d avoid them if you can.

As far as the receivers, I like Reggie Wayne, of course, and Vincent Jackson just a slight bit less. From there, it gets iffy. I’d rather have Dallas Clark than any other tight end in the playoffs at this point, even over Antonio Gates or Bo Scaife, once the Titans start playing.

Again, there’s not much to bet on with these two defenses. The Colts are questionable and the Chargers are not trustworthy. With such a selection of defenses playing tomorrow, it’d be better to choose between Miami or Baltimore in what should be a contest decided by who plays the most mistake-free football.

With an over/under of 50 in this game as well, it’s a safe bet to go with Colts and Chargers offensive studs when you can get your hands on them. Manning should be worth the price, and Rivers is a decent substitute if the commercial buckethead is out of your price range.

Adam Vinatieri is a good choice at kicker, but other options like David Akers and Ryan Longwell look good for tomorrow’s games as well. It is, as always, a toss up at kicker. Flip a coin, throw a dart at the board and then just pick one.

The good thing about salary caps in playoff fantasy football is that you can just use however much money you have left over for your kicker after you’ve put together your team. Easy call.

Week 17 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Championship Edition?

First of all, why are you guys still having your championship in Week 17? That’s like playing a game of chess for hours only to bring in toddlers to play out the final three moves. Why would you do that? And where did you get chess-playing toddlers?

This week, I absolutely love everyone involved with the Denver and San Diego passing games. Sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if Darren Sproles goes off for a long touchdown or if LaDainian Tomlinson gets some decent yardage and a score, but this game that will be decided by the arms of In Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers.

I am not sure who will step up this week, but I do like Denver a slight bit more than the Chargers. I think they have it in them to play all out for this last game.

I also love all the Falcons going up against a soft, soft St. Louis Rams that is just glad to not be the Lions these days. Michael Turner is already drooling over this one. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.

In contrast, I hate everyone that will be on the field when Indianapolis takes on Tennessee. Both teams have no reason to play on Sunday, but rather than just let them forfeit, we have to watch them struggle to figure out who really cares.

My guess is that all starters are pulled before halftime, and I give the edge to Peyton Manning in the scoring department. A sneaky play from that one is Vince Young, likely to see plenty of time once old bones Kerry Collins heads to the bench.

I hate Maurice Jones-Drew this week against the Baltimore Ravens defense. Jacksonville’s passing game isn’t scary enough to keep the Ravens off of Jones-Drew at the line, and I, once again, must hate Brett Favre this week.

Even in Favre’s matchup against Miami, which would clearly favor the pass for most teams, I don’t like Favre. I think the Dolphins take care of business in the Meadowlands for a playoff spot and make Jets fans wonder what might have been if they had kept Chad Pennington around.

Of course, that won’t really stop the Patriots from steam-rolling the Bills. The Buffalo boys will keep it close enough to keep their respect, but the Patriots are going to be sure to win this one with the chance of it actually meaning something for the playoffs.

If the Pats make it anywhere close to the big show this season, people really will start to wonder what they are going to do with Matt Cassel this offseason.

In the Bengals-Chiefs game, I like all the Chiefs fantasy studs on your roster.

A Bengals team without Chad Johnson or T.J. Houshmandzadeh is just going to try and run Cedric Benson all day and then call it quits at halftime with fingers crossed they have     Carson Palmer back next year.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, have some good reasons to play hard.

Larry Johnson needs to prove he still deserves to stay with the team despite his off-the-field issues, and Tyler Thigpen needs to continue to prove he can be effective as a quarterback in the NFL so that the Chiefs don’t forget about him this offseason. I am sure Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe would love to continue to get those stats up. Play your Chiefs.

And no, even though he looks like a better start than Eli Manning this week, I won’t recommend that you start David Carr. I just can’t go there.

Good luck.

Week 16 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Championship Edition

At this point, you should be starting your studs. We stopped posting all the week-to-week start posts as a result, but I do have a few thoughts to throw out this week with many of you in championship or at least playoff matches.

In the Cowboy game tonight, I like Tony Romo and the Cowboys wide receivers, and I like Tashard Choice as a desperation play. Marion Barber is questionable since he looked injured and lacked a little power in last week’s game against the Giants.

I wouldn’t bet on Anquan Boldin this week with his injury. The Cardinals have a playoff spot, and I’d worry that they will let Steve Breaston take the start this week to save Boldin for the postseason. Besides, the Cardinals are likely playing in the snow against New England, who is in a must-win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive, and it’s tough to bet against a Belichick who wants to make the playoffs. Even Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner are questionable this week if the weather turns frightful.

If you’ve been riding Matt Cassel through the playoffs, I think it’s safe for you to consider him a lock this week against the Cardinals unless the weather gets really bad. It’s likely you don’t have a better play at quarterback, and if Tarvaris Jackson can tear apart a team through the air, I could probably throw a touchdown against the Cardinals.

Marshawn Lynch looked like a lock to be a must-start this week against the Broncos until he came down with a bad shoulder in practice. I still like him as long as he suits up and starts since coaches have played it up as a minor injury, but if he doesn’t take the field, Fred Jackson becomes a great start as the lone back against the Broncos.

If you need a sneak play at running back, I really like DeShaun Foster as long as Frank Gore sits this week. Watch the injury report, and be prepared to sub him in if you have a questionable guy like Marion Barber this week.

Brett Favre worries me a little this week against the Seahawks. While I’m sure there aren’t many teams that stumbled into the postseason with him at quarterback, Favre’s a dangerous play in your championship game. He’ll have plenty of chances to score against the Seahawks terrible secondary, but with the running game firing on all cylinders, I think the Jets won’t change their game plan.

Shaun Hill is a gem this week. Start him. I almost did this week, but I had Peyton Manning. He did okay for me Thursday night.

I like Matt Ryan, but I question whether he’ll be able to come through on the big stage against the Vikings. If they could handle the Cardinals attack, can the Falcons do it? I wouldn’t want to bet my fantasy season on a rookie in a game like this one.

With Reggie Bush is out, Marques Colston looks like a great start this week against Detroit. He’ll get the targets, and it’s the Lions. The Lions, always in a must-win, might even make it competitive enough to get the Saints firing at full blast.

Don’t stop starting Antonio Bryant.

Brandon Marshall is one heck of a player, but I haven’t seen him getting many opportunities. With no big threat in the running game, the receivers are getting locked up. Teams would rather let Eddie Royal take a few short routes and make plays than let Baby T.O. go off.

That said, I think you still have to start Marshall against a Buffalo team that is almost done, but I like several WR2ish receivers better than Marshall this week when it comes down to who I think generates the points.

I think Torry Holt is the one receiver with a good matchup that I would hope I do not have to start this week in a win-or-go-home game.

Wait, scratch that. It’s probably Lee Evans. Even if Trent Edwards returns, Lee Evans is just not reliable enough in a big week, but you have to start him if you rode him this far. The Denver secondary has been very questionable this season, and they could give up a big play … if the Bills can make one.

I won’t go into tight ends and kickers too much because choosing them on a weekly basis is a risky situation. John Carlson and Jerramy Stevens are two guys I like as reliable options this week, but ride the guy that got you to the playoff unless he’s in a terrible situation.

I hope none of your games come down to a kicker, but if they do, good luck to you.

That’s all I got for this week. Start and sit questions can always be left in the comments or emailed to me through our contact page.

Good luck in the playoffs.

Week 14 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

You’re obviously starting your studs at this point. For many of you, it’s the playoffs. For others, it’s the last week before the playoffs (and you should hate that your championship game is in Week 17, where anything goes).

This week, whether you are in the playoffs are about to be, is a critical one. For the sake of consistent production, you’ll want to go with the guys that have been making your team a winner all season. The last thing you want to do is get beaten because you went out on a limb with your latest waiver wire claim.

As such, I’m not going to give you the normal start or sit list Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders. Instead, we’ll talk through some notes and concerns on players that you might be thinking about starting.

QUARTERBACKS

It’s a great week for quarterbacks, but you should be worried about Shaun Hill and Brett Favre. I think the Jets could easily win this game on the ground with Thomas Jones and that phenom run-blocking line. Favre will not have to do much at all, but I’d still start him if he is your top quarterback.

Hill, on the other hand, is a risky start because the Jets could very easily break the 49ers, and while Hill will be throwing all day, he might not have much success. I’d probably still start Hill over Favre.

Matt Cassel, even after his terrible Week 13, is a good start against Seattle. The Seahawks just aren’t good at stopping anything through the air, which is ironic I guess when you consider that they’re hawks. Despite his also dreadful performance, I’d also give Kyle Orton the nod but not over a Tony Romo or Tyler Thigpen. I’d give even Donovan McNabb the slight nod ahead of Kyle Orton simply because I think he’s on a hot streak and should fight hard against the Giants even if he doesn’t find success.

RUNNING BACKS

I’m very afraid of Tim Hightower this week despite the Golden Boy matchup against the Rams. This game could be the Kurt Warner show — and I expect it to be — so I don’t like the chances for Hightower, who’s been losing touches at the goal line to J.J. Arrington.

I also don’t really like DeAngelo Williams. He didn’t blow up against the Bucs last time he played them, and despite the fact that he was on a roll, with a lot of ground to makeup in the NFC South, Tampa Bay should come to play. I doubt many people have Williams as one of their top two backs this season since he was typically drafted around the middle and even below Jonathan Stewart.

Warrick Dunn makes me a little nervous in this one against the Panthers as well, but I’d start him before I started Williams. Don’t get me wrong. Williams is a chance I would take, but I don’t love him this week.

I do love love love Steve Slaton and Matt Forte, and I’m cautious about Marshawn Lynch. He has flashes of brilliance, but I think Lee Evans will be a larger factor in the Bills winning this game than Marshawn.

WIDE RECEIVERS

I would worry about Bernard Berrian because, regardless of the strong matchup, will the Vikings even bother to get him a score when Adrian Peterson can probably get four touchdowns in the first half?

I hate the fact that I traded Eddie Royal in a package for Brandon Marshall. I like Royal’s chances to outperform Baby T.O. In all fairness, Cutler, get back to sending the ball to Marshall and only Marshall.

Speaking of T.O., Terrell Owens could be a game changer this week, or he could be totally taken out of the game by the Steelers’ secondary. You have to start him regardless, but you can sit him if you have a gem of a matchup play. For example, I’d sit T.O. for Eddie Royal.

I’d tag Lee Evans as a must start this week with his history against Miami. Maybe he’ll actually get a score this time around with J.P. Losman going deep.

I love me some Lance Moore, even though I was slow to warm up to him this year while Colston was injured.

Mark Clayton, who seems to have turned in on late, is a daring choice to start if you are in a must-win playoff game. I don’t know how Joe Flacco keeps doing it, but I’d be nervous that Clayton falls off against a Washington secondary that has seen him come up big the past two weeks. Do you dare? I wouldn’t.

TIGHT ENDS

Start your stud, but my not-so-sleepy sleeper for this week would be Steve Heiden. Ken Dorsey could easily make him a stud in a tough matchup against the Titans, and I’m starting Heiden myself.

Good luck in your playoffs this week, and my apologies to anyone with a Week 17 championship. That hurts.

Week 13 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

A lot of the action already went down on Thursday, but there are still a few sneaky starts and player concerns this week. Here are a few players that might help or hurt you in staking your claim for a playoff spot on this fine Sunday.

Hot Hands

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Rams — It’s sort of a no-brainer that even a noodle arm can go big against the Rams. As long as Davone Bess can fill the gap left by Greg Camarillo, I think Pennington could be in for a modest but respectable fantasy performance in St. Louis.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Rams – Of course, Pennington’s main competition for points will be this man right here. Hopefully, Brown shares the love and doesn’t gobble up all the touchdown runs and touchdown passes. One can only hope. Maybe he’ll even share with Ricky Williams. Ricky loves to pass, especially in circles and while listening to Dave Matthews Band.

Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. 49ers — Barring a perfect storm, this week could be your best chance to get something out of Lee Evans before he gets snowed in for the rest of the season. Trent Edwards found his game last week, and hopefully, Evans can expose the 49ers’ secondary just as Terrell Owens did last week.

Bernard Berrian, WR Vikings vs. Bears — If Berrian was going to heat up again down the stretch, this game would be the part where the water starts to steam. As long as Gus Frerotte would like to hold up his end of the bargain, I’m sure that Berrian would love to put a hurting on his former team.

Dustin Keller, TE Jets vs. Broncos — Since is 100+ yard game in Week 10, Keller’s seen at least six targets in every game. I like that streak and his chances against a QB-friendly Broncos defense that may occasionally shut down one of Brett Favre’s wide receivers throughout the day.

Baltimore Ravens D/ST vs. Bengals — Ryan Fitzpatrick sees this coming, and there is nothing he can do about it.

Bubble Boys

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Texans — When Garrard matched up against Houston earlier this season, he blew up the Texans’ defense with a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown in his second-best fantasy performance of the season. Can I have a repeat?

Matt Cassel, QB Patriots vs. Steelers — Hot streak or brown streak, the Steelers are the kind of defense that makes the cookie crumble. I always wanted to call Cassel a cookie. Done.

Larry Johnson, RB Chiefs vs. Raiders — He was a complete bust last time he faced the Raiders. Can you trust him this time around? The offense is better, but is L.J.? The matchup is too good to sit him, but I definitely have my concerns going into this week.

Ted Ginn Jr., WR Dolphins vs. Rams — How much did Camarillo distract defenses and allow Ginn to get open for the big play? We’ll see on Sunday, but Ginn’s still worth a chance to prove his worth.

Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST vs. Texans – Just questionable enough not to start against a Texans team looking to get back the Jags for what they did to them in Week 4. It’s likely that both teams could look like they forgot to play defense.

Cold Shoulders

Jason Campbell, QB Redskins vs. Giants — Campbell’s already having dizzy spells and hot flashes thinking about the first matchup with the Giants this season. The past few weeks haven’t been impressive enough for us to overlook that day either. You’ll have to take the good with the bad this week with Campbell and hope for at least one good touchdown pass.

Reggie Bush, RB Saints vs. Buccaneers — Even if Bush returns, this matchup is one of those where you’d probably be better off seeing what Bush can do before you rely on him to win a game for you. Only play Bush if he starts and if you have no more reliable options. Bush might spent more time on the sidelines than in the game.

Willie Parker, RB Steelers vs. Patriots — The Pats can stop the run, and Parker is in no shape to amaze us this week.

Steve Smith, WR Panthers vs. Packers – After a huge game last week, Smith is due for a cooling off against a top-rated pass defense. The Packers defense is bound to look for retribution after what the Saints did to them, and Delhomme could struggle.

Dwayne Bowe, WR Chiefs vs. Raiders — Nnamdi Asomugha would like to give you a heads up that Bowe won’t be open all day. Thanks for your understanding.

Chris Cooley, TE Redskins vs. Giants – Cooley, just like the rest of the Redskins, didn’t have a good showing when he faced the Giants in the season opener. If Campbell can’t make it happen, Cooley can’t either. He’s likely to have more blocking duties than usual this week.

San Diego Chargers D/ST vs. Falcons — On paper, this game looked like a slaughter at the beginning of the season. Now, I think you should move away from the Chargers D/ST. Chargers defense without Shawne Merriman is more dangerous than you would expect.

Week 12 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

I don’t even know why I am awake right now at 6 a.m. on Sunday.

Actually, that’s a lie. I’m awake right now because I am infused with truck stop coffee, the kind of coffee that fills you with enough energy to punch a wall with your head … twice.

Needless to say, it’s been an eventful weekend, but more on that later. For now, let’s talk sit/start very quickly before I pass out to sleep.

It looks like a cold week for Brian Westbrook. Banged up and facing Baltimore, I am benching him this week for a matchup play with Jonathan Stewart.

I’d seriously consider all other options to sub in for your Eagles players this week. Coming off a beating by the Giants, the Baltimore defense could look to put a hurting on the Eagles early and often.

I like all the Bears this week, especially Orton and Forte as they find themselves getting back on track against a terrible Rams defense.

If Jamal Lewis is going to have a 100-yard game, this week is probably the one where he’ll do it.

I wouldn’t start a single Lion besides Calvin Johnson, but what else is new?

Lee Evans is a bubble start this week with Trent Edwards playing terrible and scared, but I think he’s worth starting with the chance he might rebound this week after last week’s scoreless effort.

I don’t think Ronnie Brown is going to Wildcat all over the Patriots’ faces this week, but he’s not as bad of a play as many think. If Thomas Jones can get 100+ yards against the Pats, I’ll bet Brown/Ricky Williams have a shot to do it as well.

Eddie Royal is a great play this week as the No. 2 versus Oakland, but I still like Brandon Marshall to make some things happen as well with his size.

Start your Colts from now until the end of the season. The schedule only gets easier, and this week, Peyton Manning faces a quarterback’s best friend, the San Diego Chargers.

And now, I … must … sleep.

Week 11 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

I didn’t rush to publish the starts and sits before Thursday Night Football because I wasn’t planning on mentioning any of Jets or Patriots this week. It’s times like these that you should follow me on twitter for any news updates or sit/start recommendations you might need.

Last night, I expected a defensive slugfest with a lot of Thomas Jones, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and some short passes to Wes Welker. Nothing to write home about, so nothing worth covering in Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders.

I pegged Brett Favre and Matt Cassel as bubble starts, but they’ve been matchup plays for several weeks now. I wrote off Randy Moss as a lost cause, even though you have to start a stud like him every week. While BenJarvus Green-Ellis wouldn’t do much, he’d get his carries and maybe a touchdown when they got in close.

Thomas Jones would continue to ride his hot streak behind such a solid offensive line. Wes Welker would be a solid play to collect yardage in this one, and if you wanted to take a chance on Jerricho Cotchery or Laveranues Coles, more power to you.

The fact that the weather might take a turn for the worst sold me on those predictions. Despite Brett Favre’s ability to succeed in harsh weather, it was going to be a running game. It would come down to who had time of possession, but it wouldn’t be close — Jets win.

Call it the Brett Favre factor, but sometimes Favre’s teams (and his opponents) can do a lot with just a little.

Your leading passer from Thursday night, Matt Cassel. With 400 yards passing and three touchdowns, Cassel might have just won a lot of battles for owners this weekend, but I’d really like to hear from anyone who started him (or even anyone in a league where someone started him).

In three out of my five redraft leagues, he’s a free agent on the waiver wire, and he only went off like that because I just dropped him this morning. Dick.

Do it again, and I owe you a coke, Cassel. (And not the kind you’re thinking, Matt Jones, so quit calling me.)

Hot Hands

Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers vs. Bears — I’m not afraid of the Bears passing defense, so they can feel free to stack the line for Ryan Grant like they did against the Titans. I’d still start Rodgers in what could be a lucrative return to his early-in-the-season success.

Matt Ryan, QB Falcons vs. Broncos — Against a potent passing offense, the Falcons are going to need big plays, and without Champ Bailey, the Broncos are very QB-friendly. As long as Michael Turner doesn’t explode in some kind of white-hot fantasy flame and rack up the touchdowns — it’s possible — Ryan is set for a good day.

Michael Turner, RB Falcons vs. Broncos — Turner has a delicious matchup against the weak Broncos run defense. And yes, I’m hedging my bets a little bit by recommending both the passing game and running game of the Falcons. Just like the Saints matchup last week, the Falcons could be primed to put up numbers in this one as well.

Joseph Addai, RB Colts vs. Texans — Assuming any rumor of his injury flaring up again are false, Addai is actually starting the chewy, cream-filling goodness of his schedule here at the end of the season. The Texans run defense has a bad habit of looking like Swiss cheese, and with the Colts offense hitting stride, I foresee a high ceiling for Addai this week.

Greg Jennings, WR Packers vs. Bears — You have to start Jennings even though he’s been through a rough stretch. Fortunately, he should break out of the hard times against a weak Bears defense. Surely, the Bears won’t stack up against the run and make Rodgers beat them through the air like they did against the Titans, but will they? Please?

Hines Ward, WR Steelers vs. Chargers – Even if I have my doubts about who is throwing the ball, I gotta have faith in Ward. He came up with over 100 yards last week while Ben was hurting, and he should be able to do that and more this week against the Chargers terrible pass defense, even if it’s Byron Leftwich under center.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Falcons — Welcome back, Scheff. If he is finally off the sideline bike this week and back to 100 percent, watch out for a big day. Cutler still really likes to get him the ball.

Jason Elam, K Falcons vs. Broncos — This one has revenge game written all over it, and the Broncos are best friends with any kicker they face. Elam will be wanting on the field as much as possible. What if this one comes down to a long kick for the win? Epic.

Bubble Boys

Ben Roethlisberger, QB Steelers vs. Chargers — Any QB is a good start against the Chargers, but Big Ben is banged up and out of it. I would hold off on starting him if you have acquired a decent backup. While he is likely to have a better game than his Week 10 performance, it’s unlikely that he’ll notch as many fantasy points as other QBs have against the Chargers.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB Seahawks vs. Cardinals — If he starts, he upgrades the entire Seahawks passing game and saves them from the Seneca Wallace experience, but how much rust is on that arm? And how healthy is his back? Several questions around “the Hassel” make him a risky play this week, even against a questionable pass defense like the Cardinals. Beating the Seahawks with Hasselbeck under center would be another statement game for the Cardinals to show their legit in the NFC West this year.

Larry Johnson, RB Chiefs vs. Saints — He returns, but how much of this offense is now in the hands of Tyler Thigpen? I am not sure how much we’ll see of Johnson, and I’m also have my doubts that we do see would be worth starting.

Willie Parker, RB Steelers vs. Chargers — Shoulder injury? What shoulder injury? Willie Parker don’t know ’bout no shoulder injury! Parker’s probably playing this week, but this start could definitely become a McGahee-esque phantom start in a hurry. Parker in a shoulder brace just doesn’t sound great to me, so even with this soft matchup, I like Mewelde Moore better for the Steelers run game this week.

Plaxico Burress, WR Giants vs. Ravens — I am not Plax fan. I’ll admit it. I’ve never liked him since I started playing fantasy football. Maybe it’s all these character problems we hear about, or maybe I just like Domenik Hixon better. Regardless, Plax is not putting up big numbers lately, so even when it looks like a great matchup for him, I question whether he’ll get the touchdown needed to push his fantasy score over the edge.

Bernard Berrian, WR Vikings vs. Buccaneers – And just like that, poof, the hot streak dies with a zero. I question whether he can do much better against a Bucs defense that shuts down more reliable receivers everyday.

Kellen Winslow, TE Browns vs. Bills — Not that you would sit him, but Winslow might see more coverage coming his way now that the Brady Quinn game plan has been exposed. He’ll produce adequate fantasy numbers for a tight end, but I’m not sure that he’ll produce elite numbers against a very aware Bills defense.

Cold Shoulders

Brady Quinn, QB Browns vs. Bills — He surprised me with his big day early in the Thursday nighter against the Broncos, but Quinn is still a young quarterback. Against a Bills defense with their playoff hopes on the line, he’ll probably regress a bit. You weren’t starting Quinn until a week ago, so it’s probably pretty likely that the other guy on your roster is looking better this week. If Quinn blows up in this game, I’ll give him credit for being more than I thought he was.

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Titans — While he’s been putting it all out there, Garrard hasn’t gotten much help from his teammates. It’s hard to see them being much use in this one against the stingy Titans defense. Any big plays are likely to be countered by picks and other mistakes.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB Chargers vs. Steelers — L.T. hasn’t had his best weeks lately, and I don’t expect him to make a push for a top-five spot against the Steelers this week. Unless Big Ben’s arm, shoulder, and achy gallbladder go bionic in the next two days, they’ll need to slow a powerful Chargers offense and keep this game close. I think L.T. will have another disappointing week, so if you have another guy that you started while he was questionable/out, how about giving him a shot? Just think about it…

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Giants — I’m so angry that I drafted McGahee as a top RB in one of my leagues this year — my first and most likely last autodraft. His big game last week may have you thinking he could do some more good for you in this matchup. While the Ravens do run a lot, the Giants smash faces a lot. I don’t like it one bit, and considering how often the revolving door at RB swings in Baltimore, I don’t think McGahee warrants a start this week. He’s a flex option at best.

Vincent Jackson, WR Chargers vs. Steelers — He’ll ride that hot streak right into a poor day against the Steelers pass defense. Knock your expectations down a couple of notches if you are forced to start him.

Kevin Walter, WR Texans vs. Colts — Sage is under center against a strong pass defense. The Colts won’t let this one get away from them, so despite Sage’s great desire for revenge and redemption, I don’t think Walter will get a touchdown in this one. The Texans are better off looking to Steve Slaton.

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE Vikings vs. Buccaneers — The Bucs are going to take away big yardage plays here, and unless he scores a touchdown, Shiancoe will have another slow day. The run game should be the Vikings’ emphasis on offense in this one.

Week 10 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

The triumphant return of Thursday Night Football! I always thought the Thursday night games were stretching it. We already have college games on Tuesday and Thursday if you are really feigning — granted they aren’t the most interesting games, but there is a football on a green field with guys in helmets going after it. Why do we need the NFL crowding up in our grill for three nights out of the week?

In reality, it’s all just an elaborate scheme to trick people into not setting their fantasy football rosters on time. The NFL figures right about now is when winning teams might get a little cocky and switch into autopilot. Well, here’s a Thursday game to screw you, buddy.

There are several very good things about the NFL on Thursday nights that I have to admit. For one, you have an excuse to be a lazy bum and sit at home with a sixer on a Thursday night. Leave the going out to the Brady Quinns and Matt Leinarts of the world — don’t people understand that we’re tired from reading all that fantasy football analysis?

Second, if one of your players scores big on Thursday, you get to hang it over your opponent’s head for almost a full five days if he is unfortunate enough to still has a chance going into the Monday night game. It’s so glorious that you might run out of trash talk and one-liners before Sunday morning — start prepping now.

And C (because who likes numbers that much anyway), if you go up big on Thursday, you know you can sleep late on Sunday with no concerns about who takes the early lead. You have the lead, and thus, you get to sleep through the headache and just watch your opponent try to creep up on you Sunday afternoon. Now, isn’t that nice? I guess Thursday games might be awesome after all.

There are a lot of players worth starting this week. Byes are ending, and most of your studs are back for a full tour of duty. I’ll run down a few matchup plays, but if you got a good thing going on, don’t let me screw it up, fool. Do what you have been doing. For example, start Kurt Warner until he dies (or gets injured).

Hot Hands

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Lions — I won’t bore you with lots of details. He plays the Lions, he can run and the Jags have him throwing the ball like a big-boy version of Carson Palmer these days.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Raiders — Steve Smith might be smothered by Asomugyourguy (that’s his name, I swear), but Delhomme should have free reign over the rest of the field now that DeAngelo Hall is on the streets. Oakland is just ditching people to save money at this point, and the secondary was suspect even with Hall on the field. I expect Steve to slip away for at least one big play, and after that, Delhomme will have to put on the guise that they’re still trying to mix the run and the pass against a team that all but forfeits each week.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Broncos — It’s a short week and a rough-around-the-edges, new starting quarterback against a defense that cannot stop the run. No math required. As long as Quinn doesn’t grease up the ball with his hair gel and Brute and create turnovers, Lewis will go off for a few.

Willie Parker, RB Steelers vs. ColtsFRIDAY UPDATE: PARKER OUT SUNDAY. ESPN is reporting that Willie Parker will be out Sunday with a shoulder injury. Mewelde Moore will get the start again. Moore has shown he is capable of handling the job in place of Parker so expect about the same production from him. Here is what I said about Parker before this news: The Colts’ run defense is still a little suspect, even with the return of Bob Sanders, and the Steelers’ offense, even under the command of Byron Leftwich, can get the ball down the field. I like Parker to have a score in this one.

Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. Patriots — That terrible Patriots secondary keeps putting it together, but the Bills are desperate for this win now that they have lost the winning pace they had to begin the season. Evans should get his just like Donnie Avery did against the Pats in Week 8.

Derrick Mason, WR Ravens vs. Texans — Flacco loves to target this guy (almost double-digit throws per game), and the Texans’ secondary is likely to let him take one to the house.

Greg Camarillo, WR Dolphins vs. Seahawks — The Seahawks are flying across three time zones and the entire United States to face a hard-hitting Miami team. Assuming he sees the 11 targets that he had last week or close to it, Camarillo makes a borderline No. 2 receiver who could easily go for 100+ yards or a score this week.

Kevin Boss, TE Giants vs. Eagles — He has scored in each of the Giants’ last two games, and the Eagles have admitted to having a problem with stopping opposing tight ends.

Anthony Fasano, TE Dolphins vs. Seahawks — Behind Camarillo, Fasano should may see his fair share of targets as well, and last week, he managed to separate himself from David Martin by catching two passes to Martin’s zero. In fact, Martin wasn’t even targeted in Week 9. Moving forward, Fasano could develop into a starting fantasy TE (as some thought he would early in the season), but this week, he’s at least a great matchups play.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Seahawks — Joey Porter is a sack monster, and the Seahawks haven’t been able to get the ball moving without Hasselbeck. Next.

Bubble Boys

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Titans — He’s definitely a questionable start this week, so you might want to consider looking elsewhere, but he’s been too reliable against tougher run defenses in the past this season. One has to think that they might lean on Forte more than Grossman in this one, no? And anyone if given enough carries — say 50 — can produce against the Titans.

Ryan Torain, RB Broncos vs. Browns — Reports say he will have his first start this week with Selvin Young’s hamstring still bothering him, but how much can you trust a rookie that got just one yard on three carries last week? I believe he could be a solid back for the Broncos in the future, but I’m not sure he’s this season’s Ryan Grant just yet. Starting him this week isn’t necessarily something I wouldn’t do, but I would do a LOT of things if given the chance.

Billy Miller, TE Saints vs. Falcons — How much does Jeremy Shockey eat into Miller’s value? Shockey had the buy to rest up, but much like Colston came along slowly in his return from injury, Shockey might do the same. Miller could still be a borderline TE start this week, especially considering how productive he’s been through this Shockey-less stretch.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Browns — Even if he returns this week, it’s questionable where he now ranks in the offense. Prior to his injury, the argument could made that he was the No. 2 target and a prime red zone threat, but Eddie Royal may have passed him up in his absence. Either way, I’d sit him again this week in a not-so-great matchup to see how he does, but I don’t blame you for putting him in your lineup if you’ve been waiting on him.

Cold Shoulders

Marc Bulger, QB Rams vs. Jets – While they’ve been torched in the past, I have serious doubts about whether the Rams’ line can protect Bulger enough for him to attack the Jets secondary. If the Rams are without Steven Jackson and Antonio Pittman this week, the Rams are starting Kenneth Darby at RB, formerly of the Atlanta practice squad. I’d doubt he’ll fare well against the Jets run defense, and that should allow the Jets and possibly the most dominant nose tackle in the NFL right now, Kris Jenkins, to put pressure on Bulger all day.

Rex Grossman, QB Bears vs. Titans — It scares me if you are contemplating this start. Grossman will have a hard time making waves against the Titans pass defense even though the secondary has been exposed a bit over the last couple of weeks (Colts and Packers). Grossman makes bad decisions too frequently, and it’s a stretch to think his decision-making skills have improved on the bench this season. He’ll either play conservatively in this one or play terribly, so even if you picked him up, you’d be smart to let him ride the bench for a week.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Vikings — A tough run defense and his own weak performance makes me doubt he’ll be productive in this one. The most owners can hope for is a short-yardage score, but it’s hard to say whether that will happen with Rodgers throwing into the Vikings’ secondary. There are worse risks you could take this week, but I wouldn’t put money on Grant.

Julius Jones, RB Seahawks vs. Dolphins — With Morris back from injury, the two RBs in Seattle are now scrounging for carries. Jones is on the losing end and going up against a top-10 run defense after flying through three time zones. Yup, he’s a sit.

Justin Fargas, RB Raiders vs. Panthers — The Oakland rushing attack has fallen on hard times. While Carolina isn’t a top-10 run defense in the league, it’s hard to see Oakland sticking to their running game if Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme put a lead on them early. Fargas is a risky flex play, and I’d let him sit until he shows that the completely terrible Week 9 performance isn’t what to expect from here on out. At least you have Week 12 to look forward to for Fargas.

Rashied Davis, WR Bears vs. Titans — I’d be worried to start any Bears’ receivers with the change to Rex Grossman, and the Titans’ defense shouldn’t make it any easier for the backup to succeed. I’d sit all the Bears receivers if it came down to a close call, but if forced, Devin Hester and Rashied Davis are the only two worth taking chances with this week.

DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles vs. Giants — Last week’s two catches for 20 yards is sign of what’s to come. With Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown back in the lineup, Jackson slides back into his rookie role as the No. 3 wide receiver. You have to figure Westbrook into that, and if Brent Celek starts at TE, he might get looks ahead of Jackson. That makes him the No. 5 receiving option overall. He’s likely to have a quiet day unless he makes something happen, but the Giants could always forget he is on the field. New York’s pass rush won’t let McNabb sit back to let a long play develop. Is he all you have got?

Minnesota Vikings D/ST vs. Packers — You may have been starting the Vikings every week outside of their bye after drafting them as the assumed No. 1 defense. While they’ve had their big days, this game shouldn’t be one of them against a Green Bay passing attack that put up numbers against the Titans secondary. They could be without Jared Allen as well, which downgrades their pass rush a bit. You might not be carrying two defenses, but it might be in your best interest to seek out a matchups play for Week 10.

Sleepers

Shaun Hill, QB 49ers vs. Cardinals — It’s no secret that the Cardinals allow you to score through the air, and the 49ers have had two weeks to prepare. Plus, in the three games he played last season, Hill was very smart with the football and minimized turnovers. After two lost fumbles in his first game, Hill had just one INT and one fumble that was recovered in his final two.

Tyler Thigpen, QB Chiefs vs. Chargers — The Chargers are another QB-friendly team, and Thigpen is on a hot streak. If he can link up with Dwayne Bowe or Tony Gonzalez, he’ll be able to give the Chargers a run just like he gave the Bucs; however, I’d worry what might be up the new San Diego defensive coordinator’s sleeve…

Peyton Hillis, RB/FB Broncos vs. Browns — With Shanny, you never know. Even though Ryan Torain is getting his first start (supposedly), we know from past experience that “starting” for Shanahan doesn’t always mean you’re the best back to play in fantasy. Hillis could easily take third-down snaps, and that might allow him to run some passes into the end zone. It’s a dangerous play, but isn’t that what you use a sleeper for?