Believe it or not: Austin Collie, Peyton Hillis, Lance Moore and More Top Scores from Week 3

Austin Collie, WR, Colts: 12 catches for 171 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: This was not the stat line Reggie Wayne owners wanted to see, but without Pierre Garcon, Peyton Manning locked onto Collie while Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne got most of the attention from the Denver defense. I don’t expect Collie to get this lucky every week, but with two strong games under his belt, he should be owned in all leagues.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: 455 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Believe It: The 400+ passing yards countered Rivers’ two interceptions, and that’s the kind of game he’ll have to have as long as the Chargers’ special teams continues to give up two touchdowns each game.

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: 262 passing yards, 3 TDs

Believe It (in Matchups): Flacco finally had a good performance, thanks to Anquan Boldin and the Browns’ defense. Now that we know what he’s capable of, we will have to see if he can keep up this level of production. I don’t see him living up to the QB1-hype surrounding him this offseason, but he’ll make a decent matchup play the rest of this year.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: 256 passing yards, 3 TDs

Believe It (in Matchups): Sanchez had another three touchdown performance on Sunday…so is it horrible of me to still not buy it? He’s a promising young quarterback, but he’s still a matchup play in my book. I doubt L.T. would have signed for a team that just planned to become a pass-first offense like the Chargers were without him. If you have Sanchez as a QB2, congrats. He looks good to go in that role or as part of a QB-by-committee.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 250 passing yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Not Buying It: Cassel showed up big in Week 3 for the Chiefs, but I can’t take it as a sign of things to come just yet. He’s still not a very good quarterback, and his success Sunday might have been more about the complete and utter failure of the 49ers.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints: 6 catches for 149 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: I immediately regret my decision to wait on picking up Moore after Reggie Bush was injured. Moore should be on the field more often now and showed what he can do with that playing time against the Falcons Sunday. Drew Brees trusts him, and I do, too.

Seattle Seahawks D/ST: 2 INTs, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 TDs

Believe It (At Home): “The 12th Man” lives again in Seattle. They may be garbage on the road, but in Seattle with Leon Washington returning kicks, the Seahawks D/ST appears to be unstoppable. They’ve produced double-digit fantasy points in both their home games thus far this season.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: 144 rushing yards, 1 TD, 7 catches for 36 yards

Believe It: I thought Hillis might make a decent sleeper at the beginning of the season. It looks like he’s woken up now. Keep in mind that this performance was against the Ravens. It’s not like the Browns have a lot going on in their offense to distract a defensive unit like the Ravens, so there’s a chance Hillis could do even more with what he’s given against a lesser defense.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: 105 rushing yards, 1 TD, 2 catches for 17 yards

Believe It: Even with Michael Bush available, McFadden continued to get the majority of the carries. I still don’t think McFadden keeps this job all year. Injury or Bush’s improving health will force the Raiders to take some of his carries away, but if you have him, you should continue to ride the lightning while you can.

Roy E. Williams, WR, Cowboys: 5 catches for 117 yards, 2 TDs

Not Buying It (Entirely): Williams finally earned that contract he got when he first arrived in Dallas. His second touchdown was late in the game when the Texans D/ST has all but quit, but whether he earned it or not, it’s good to see him producing and to know that the Dallas offense will continue to involve him, especially in a game that mattered so much. He makes for a decent sleeper wide receiver — sad that a starter on a high-powered passing attack is a sleeper, but what are you gonna do? — moving forward since he could keep his role as a starter all year long, even with all the excitement for Dez Bryant.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Broncos: 6 catches for 169 yards, 1 TD

Not Buying It: The Broncos have said that they will have a different top receiver every week, and it certainly seems that way. The only two I’d rely on are Demaryius Thomas and Jabar Gaffney, and I don’t even trust them a whole lot right now. Lloyd’s nice, but without a cemented role, I just don’t think you can ever start him with confidence.

Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers: 3 catches for 100 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: Another sleeper awakened this weekend. No more “buy lows” here. Wallace should get even better once Big Ben returns.

Dustin Keller, TE, Jets: 6 catches for 98 yards, 2 TDs

Believe It: Sanchez won’t throw three touchdowns every week, but it’s telling that he threw the first two to Keller. Clearly, he trusts Keller at the goal line. That will go a long way in making Keller a legit fantasy tight end this season.

Not worth mentioning here, but for those of you keeping score at home, the obvious ones for this week were Michael Vick, Anquan Boldin, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Chris Johnson.

Believe it or not: Jahvid “THE” Best, Jason Snelling, LeSean McCoy, Jay Cutler and More Top Scorers from Week 2

This week was not a good week to bench Jay Cutler or Jahvid Best. I have Jay Cutler as my QB1 in two leagues, but I chose to bench him in one of the two to “play it safe” with Favre. I hate it when I play it safe. I hate it even more when it backfires. Uh, needless to say, I won’t do that again.

We knew Jahvid Best was going to be good, but THIS good…against the Eagles. Surprise! Hate yourself for doubting him. I loathe myself because I was already high on the kid.

Here are the rest of the unusual top scorers from Week 2, a week that will haunt me for a lifetime.

Jahvid Best: 78 yards, 2 TDs, 9 catches for 154 yards, 1 TD

Believe It — Best was excellent, especially on the short pass from Shaun Hill that he turned into a 75-yard touchdown. Some were comparing him to Brian Westbrook and Chris Johnson going into this season, and this Week 2 performance certainly shows hints of that kind of ability. I don’t think you’re going to be able to “buy low” on him anymore this season, and I doubt you’ll really want to “sell high” on him either.

Best proved this week that he can score plenty of fantasy points against even the toughest of defenses and without his starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. That makes him a must-start in my book for the rest of the season, and we’ll see if we can confirm that next week when he faces Minnesota.

Jason Snelling: 129 yards, 2 TDs, 5 catches for 57 yards, 1 TD

Believe It (When He Plays) — We’ve never forgotten about Snelling’s abilities, and when Michael Turner went down with a groin injury in this one, Snelling jumped right into his role to reap the rewards. I don’t think the Cardinals put a defense on the field as they allowed the Falcons to run up 41 points. Ouch.

Unfortunately for Snelling, the Falcons have said that Michael Turner’s groin injury is not severe and that he could have gone back into the game if it was close. So while Snelling was awesome this week, it’ll be hard to predict when the Falcons will next have to rely on his talents. He will at least continue to spell Turner, but he really only has value when the full load is put on his back.

Still, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add him to your bench if you own Michael Turner. You’d definitely want a piece of this action if Turner were to reaggravate his injury later in the season.

LeSean McCoy: 120 yards, 3 TDs, 4 catches for 8 yards

Believe It — No Leonard Weaver and a banged-up Mike Bell makes McCoy a happy boy. Of course, this stat line was against the Lions, which really makes it like saying Neil Armstrong had a great vertical when he was jumping in zero gravity on the moon.

I am not a huge fan of McCoy, but he appears to have stumbled into more of a workload that I expected him to have this season. If he makes the best of it, he should be a solid stud. We’ll get another chance to see what he can do against a slightly more difficult defense next week when he faces Jacksonville.

Jay Cutler: 277 passing yards, 3 TDs

Believe It — Look at that stat line. No interceptions? None? Cutler put his critics on notice this week. It’s physically painful to me knowing that I sat Cutler in one league, but at least I started him in another to benefit from his huge day in Dallas.

Mike Martz has made this offense into a force to be reckoned with, and Cutler made all the right throws Sunday. Looks like those who counted on Cutler to put it all together this season in Chicago have hit it big. I believe in him going forward.

Mark Sanchez: 220 passing yards, 3 TDs

Not Buying It — “Sanchize” went from one of the worst games of his career to one of the best in just one week, but it’s hard to say he’ll do this on a regular basis. Sanchez may have the tools, but he’s still very young. He outplayed Tom Brady with the help of the Jets’ non-stop attacking defense.

New York will frequently rely on their running game and defense this season and allow Sanchez to do just enough not to lose. He’ll be better when Santonio Holmes gets on the field, but he won’t be matching Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s numbers every week.

Sanchez owners  should expect stats similar to what Matt Ryan has posted over the last couple of years.  Just be pleasantly surprised when he puts together a game like he did Sunday.

Shaun Hill: 335 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

Not Buying It — Clearly, Hill can run the offense in Stafford’s absence, but he’s not going to create any quarterback controversy. Take away the 75-yard score by Jahvid Best, and this stat line reads 260 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, which is a little more ordinary.

Kyle Orton: 307 passing yards, 1 TD

Believe It — The Broncos are a passing team, and even though he didn’t take great advantage of that with passing touchdowns this week, Orton once again put up big yardage. Expect him to be a solid QB2 this season with QB1 upside depending on the matchup.

Mike Tolbert: 82 yards, 2 TDs, 1 catch for 13 yards

Believe It — Mike Tolbert got the rock in Ryan Mathews absence, but unlike Snelling, he could be gunning for a larger share of the carries even when Mathews is healthy. Tolbert punched in 2 touchdowns and seemed adequate enough in the running game for San Diego. Meanwhile, Mathews seems to have a fumble problem.

The Chargers appear more apt to use Tolbert over Darren Sproles if Mathews were to miss any time or shows that he is too green to start at running back for a playoff contender. So take note of this stat line and waiver wire accordingly if you want to protect your Mathews investment or if you want to snipe a LeRon McClain-type talent to keep in reserve.

Kevin Walter: 11 catches for 144 yards, 1 TD

Not Buying It — The hype train is still rolling out of Jacoby Jones’ station. Jones also had a touchdown, but he didn’t rack up more than 100 yards like Water did. Expect these two to battle it out for a good while, similar to the way Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson seem to battle it out beside Marques Colston for the Saints.

It’s hard to predict who will be the most solid No. 2 fantasy wide receiver beside Andre Johnson on the Texans this season, but keep your eye on both Walter and Jones. Walter received a good amount of targets while Johnson was being attended to in the locker room, and I don’t believe his bigger game this Sunday means he’s won the competition.

Not mentioned for the sake of obviousness, Matt Schaub, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Steelers D/ST, Peyton Manning, and Andre Johnson.

Brett Favre’s 2010 Vikings: You aren’t who we thought you were, yet

In this business, nothing goes as planned. If it did, why would be play? (The wins, of course, but I digress…)

We got our first taste of reality one week ago on Thursday night. The Vikings hoped to avenge their playoff loss to the Super Bowl Champion Saints on the NFL’s biggest Week 1 stage.

It goes without saying that the game didn’t go the way we had planned. High-scoring? I don’t know about you, but a 14-9 victory still seems like the under, not the over. Revenge game? Only if the Vikings left flaming bags of poo in the visiting locker room on their way out of the Superdome.

Adrian Peterson may have exposed some weaknesses in the Saints’ run defense, but I certainly didn’t see it in the fantasy points column. AP gave me just 9 points going into the weekend. Thanks for leaving me hanging there, buddy.

But one week ago we learned some things. We confirmed that Drew Brees is going to spread the ball around like last season. We learned Lance Moore is back and relevant in fantasy once again. We saw a glimpse of Devery Henderson as a reliable fantasy wide receiver, but I’ll stop myself from fully endorsing him until I see it again…and again. I still think Robert Meachem may be the better fantasy target, and he cold swap places with Henderson from week to week.

We also learned that Brett Favre is an old man. I know it was probably obvious to the casual, outside observer, but we all forgot that this offseason during the “will he or won’t he” drama. Even I did. And I don’t even like Favre.

In the second half, when we expected Favre to come out firing like a man on a mission, when we expected him to have settled into the Saints defensive attacks and lead a rally, he just seemed tired. He seemed like a man who wasn’t capable of carrying…anything.

Granted it was only Week 1 and a guy who missed all of training camp while recovering from surgery is going to have some rust, but I don’t think Favre can carry the Vikings this season like he did last season–not without Sidney Rice and not against a secondary like the Saints’ crew. The excitement of his return to football and the Vikings’ excitement about finally having a quarterback better equipped to run the offense than Tarvaris Jackson gave the team an emotional boost last year. It won’t this year.

And Favre isn’t going to get any healthier. It was obviously a more difficult decision to make the call this year about whether to play or not, and whether that’s more telling of his ankle injury or an indication that it took him longer to rediscover that passion for the game, that is not a good sign.

More than likely, it will fall on Adrian Peterson’s shoulders. This season could be All Day’s time to shine, but he hasn’t turned the spark on yet. Was the destruction of Touchdown Jesus a sign of things to come? Doubtful. But I believe he’ll need Brett Favre to find enough energy to give the Vikings at least half the passing game they had last season in order to be successful.

So as we go into Week 2, I have my eye on the Vikings. I may have doubted Favre’s ability to repeat his 2009 season, but I am going to have serious concerns about the offense moving forward if they can’t get Favre and his remaining receivers on track at home against Miami.

If Brett Favre won’t get enough out of his 40-year-old body to make the Vikings relevant this season, holding a spot for Sidney Rice on your roster will be futile.

Gary Busey should be in every commercial. Ever.

No, seriously. Gary Busey should just pitch every product that wants to advertise on TV, especially when it comes to fantasy football. Just look at this series of ads he did for vitaminwater. I saw the first of these when it ran on ESPN last night during the SportsCenter Fantasy Draft Special.

I don’t even think he knows he’s in a commercial right now. I bet he thinks he really is Tugwater. He’s shouting “REMEMBER THE ALAMO” in a bathroom mirror somewhere while a fantasy football owner cries in pain.

This one actually strikes fear in me.

And if you really don’t want to sleep at night…

Thank you, Gary Busey, err…I mean, Norman Tugwater. You make commercials worth watching.

How to Win Your Fantasy Football League on Draft Day – vers. 2010

When it comes to fantasy football draft strategy, I’ve tried almost everything. RB-RB? Of course. Draft a quarterback in the first round? Sure. WR-WR? Most definitely. But all this trial and error has paid off.

After hammering out what I think is my best strategy to date last season in the “cutting out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy and deciding how to play the first round, I think I’ve finally refined the best way to win your league on draft day this season.

And I’m going to share it with you.

What you need to win

Traditionally, we all took running backs because they were scarce. Not every team had a workhorse running back, and in a 12-team league, we needed to start at least 24 of them.

But now, there are 50+ running backs available since every team in the NFL has a time share. So after the five elite running backs are off the board — Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, and Frank Gore — we don’t have to use a first-round pick on a running back.

Not to say that you don’t need a decent running back. You just don’t have to pay a first-round price for one. It’s always nice to have a promising guy like Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Frank Gore, Shonn Greene, Ryan Mathews, Ryan Grant, or Cedric Benson on your roster. But you can make do if you miss out on them.

You’ll notice I didn’t list Steven Jackson or Rashard Mendenhall on that list. I did that on purpose. They are on the cusp of what I would consider the top, reliable running backs, but they scare me more than they excite me this season. And much like the ladies, that’s not going to work for me when it comes to running backs.

Quarterbacks, while valuable, aren’t as scarce as running backs because each team only needs one. I love me some quarterbacks. Don’t get me wrong, but only a select few — Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady — are worth taking in the first three rounds. If you miss out on them, you should wait. (But DON’T miss out on them. More on this later.)

That leaves wide receivers. If you’re following me so far, you understand that wide receivers are the new running backs. Receivers have become more reliable and valuable as the NFL becomes more and more passer-friendly. The top receivers are worth building a team around and can give you an advantage if you know how to draft your running backs late.

Guys like Andre Johnson and Greg Jennings are more consistent than the rest of the pack you’ll be able to draft later. My list of elites for this season also includes Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Miles Austin, Roddy White, DeSean Jackson, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, and Sidney Rice with Larry Fitzgerald right on the edge of greatness. (I’m not a fan of Matt Leinart at quarterback this season.)

So draft your elite wide receivers early and often, and you’ll have an advantage.

Every team needs at least one of these top wideouts to “win” their draft, but you’re even better off if you can nab two of them to fill your starting roster. Of course, that’s assuming that you start two wide receivers. If you start three wide receivers, I’d still limit myself to taking two elites early because you can wait on the third just to make sure you don’t miss out entirely on running back value.

I’ll explain the strategy I recommend to make this happen, but before I do that, a side note.

Plans: Made to be broken

No draft ever goes exactly to plan. You can’t know whom the rest of your league is going to draft. Several teams could draft quarterbacks in the first round, or no one could draft a quarterback for three rounds. We really don’t know. So you have to be able to adjust to what your league is giving you. That’s why I recommend the tiered draft cheatsheets, and that’s why I can’t tell you exactly how to draft each position.

So much like my first round strategy from last season, this strategy is just a starting point. Deviate from it as you have to in order to draft the best team possible.

Strategy on draft day

In 2010, I believe a championship team needs one of the elite quarterbacks and at least two of the elite wide receivers. If you get a reliable running back, more power to you.

And it’s all about how you play the first three rounds.

If you have a shot, go with one of the elite five running backs. You can build a solid team around a guy that is highly involved in the offense. While you might miss out on an elite quarterback because you’ll have to look at wide receivers in the second and third rounds, you can recover from that.

If you don’t get a shot at one of the elite running backs, you have you’re pick of WR-WR-QB, WR-QB-WR, or QB-WR-WR in the first three rounds. I like these sequences this season, and I think they maximize the value you get in the first three rounds.

Don’t use QB-WR-WR unless you really want Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning this season and your league scores passing touchdowns at six points. I don’t think any of the other elite quarterbacks should be considered until the second round.

In the fourth round, when it comes time to draft running backs, try to take the two best guys on the board right away. More than likely, other members of your league have moved on to drafting what’s left of the wide receivers and quarterbacks. You’ll have your pick of a good group of mid-level running backs who have the potential for greatness.

As you enter the chewy center of your draft, I’d suggest using the “cutting out the middle men” fantasy football draft strategy principles. Draft value and aim for sleepers rather than “safe” and “dependable” guys. You got your safe picks at the top of draft. For example, I’d rather have Jamaal Charles than Joseph Addai. I’d rather have Beanie Wells than Clinton Portis or Ricky Williams.

Make a special effort to get a lot of running backs. Since you didn’t draft them high, you’ll best protect yourself by drafting more of them. You want to load your roster with as many guys as possible who have the potential to be a top performer even if they’re currently a backup on their NFL roster.

You can also draft a few sleeper wide receivers later in the draft to compliment your studs. These wide receivers could become trade bait or free you up to trade your studs for one of the elite RBs you missed out on earlier in the draft. You can find a few good ones in Chris Harris’ article on “moneyball” wide receivers at ESPN.

With this strategy, you’ll “win” your draft just like I won mine.

Brett Favre Retires: What It Means for the Vikings’ Fantasy Values

ESPN reports this morning that Brett Favre plans to retire rather than rejoin the Minnesota Vikings. He managed to keep the Vikings on the hook until training camp before finally dropping the hammer. What a team player. IF and when Brett Favre actually takes the stage and says…for the third time…that he plans to retire, his absence will cut into the value of all the Vikings’ fantasy studs.

ESPN is bringing in the whole cavalry to cover the situation (Oh boy!), but here’s my take on the fantasy impact of losing the man, the myth, the legend, and the bane of offseason news.

Fantasy Impact on Vikings

Favre was the engine that got this offense moving in 2009. Without him, everything grinds to a halt. It remains to be seen how much Tarvaris Jackson can do to get it going again.

Jackson is no Brett Favre. He won’t be as creative with the offense, and I don’t see as many first downs in their future. That means fewer touchdowns for the entire unit, including newly anointed stud wide receiver Sidney Rice and running back Adrian Peterson.

Now there’s a chance that Sage Rosenfels, forgotten quarterback on the Vikings payroll, gets a shot. Many NFL minds lift him up as one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league, worthy of starting on a team somewhere. Despite rumors that he would have been on the roster bubble if Favre had returned, he could win the job as starter.

Last season, prior to Brett Favre’s decision to return to football, I covered the Vikings’ fantasy potential without Favre and argued that Rosenfels might be able to do just as well. With Rosenfels under center, Sidney Rice could still be a champ. Rosenfels has the arm, and he kept Andre Johnson fantasy relevant in stints as the starter in Houston.

But Tarvaris Jackson is a downgrade in the passing game. Unless Jackson has truly found his way as a quarterback and mastered Brad Childress’ offense, I don’t know that you can trust him to keep the Vikings in it this year.

Some would argue that Adrian Peterson stands to benefit from this blow, but I don’t see it. As I mentioned in my arguments for taking Chris Johnson at No. 1, A.P. had 18 touchdowns and 1,383 rushing yards last season with Favre. In 2008, he had just 10 touchdowns and 1,760 yards. Without Favre to open up this offense and keep defenses honest, A.P. will struggle.

And as A.P. gets worked into the ground game after game, there’s also a chance he could be injured. His running style is unforgiving, and he doesn’t avoid contact. A.P. could be this year’s Steven Jackson. He’ll get plenty of yards, I’m sure, but his touchdowns will be way down from his 2009 numbers.

I’d consider both Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew before A.P. with this development, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking the safe out with one of those two rather than taking a chance on Peterson this season.

For Real?

We’re all assuming that these text messages to teammates and sources within the Vikings administration have it right. We’re taking their word that Favre is done. I’m not sure I buy it just yet. At least not until I hear it from the old man’s mouth.

Favre may just want to get us all writing about him two or three more times this offseason. He could wait out training camp and change his mind. So I’ll believe it in…let’s say Week 2 when Brett Favre isn’t in purple.

Until then, there’s always a chance “the most magical player to ever play the game” (Seriously, Hoge?) returns for a final campaign. I, for one, have made peace with the fact that he is going to play until 2025.

Whether you think Favre is really done or not, there’s one thing we can all agree on, he is one helluva drama queen.

Should you draft Chris Johnson at No. 1?

Yes. So much yes. Don’t get caught up in the hype of this Adrian Peterson vs. Chris Johnson debate.

Sure, Chris Johnson had a phenom year. He broke 400 touches in 2009. He may not do that in 2010; in fact, he probably won’t. There’s a good chance he could suffer a setback or injury this season.

You could say all of that. You can even use history to back it up, but why not give him a chance? The Tennessee Titans offense, other than their center, is returning, and the offense can do nothing but improve around “Every Coach’s Dream.”

Vince Young will be the starting quarterback from Week 1, which should allow Chris Johnson some more freedom. The offense really didn’t open up last season until V.Y. went under center. Johnson won’t have to do everything. The offense will support him, not be all about him. That means his numbers might go down, but I’d still take a drop in production from Johnson over an unknown quantity from someone else.

Are you going to find a better deal at running back at the No. 1 pick? No, not really. Is Chris Johnson going to be the No. 1 fantasy player at the end of this season? Probably not. But do you know who is? No. You don’t.

You could guess that Adrian Peterson finishes the year at No. 1, but it’d be almost as risky as taking Johnson. Both backs will have the majority of the attention from opposing defenses, and both will see a lot of work this year. Now that Chris Johnson isn’t holding out, the main arguments for A.P. are Chris Johnson’s 400+ touches in last season and his size, even though reports claim that Johnson bulked up this season as well.

Forget these 10 reasons not to draft Chris Johnson No. 1 overall. Let’s talk 10 reasons not to draft A.P. instead…

  1. Brett Favre: Adrian Peterson had an 18-touchdown season with Favre at the helm, but what if Favre doesn’t return? Pre-Favre, in 2008 with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, he had just 10 touchdowns. Sure, he had more yardage that season, but they didn’t get it done in the red zone. That’s worrisome, no? [BREAKING: ESPN reports that Brett Favre will retire. Believe at your own risk.]
  2. Brett Favre + Sidney Rice: If Brett Favre does return, he makes Sidney Rice one stud of a wide receiver. Rice happened to rack up the yardage last season while missing out on the touchdowns. He left the ball at the 1 or the 2 yard line fairly often, and he gave Adrian Peterson some easy touchdowns. In his second year with the legendary gunslinger, Rice’s likely to improve on those numbers and take away scoring opportunities from Adrian Peterson.
  3. Brett Favre: If Brett Favre does return, and he falls apart faster than anticipated throughout the 2010 season, he could turn back into old Brett Favre, turning over the ball too often for his team to handle, which would also take opportunities away from A.P.
  4. The Williams Wall: The pending suspension of defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams could have a drastic effect on the Vikings this season. If the four-game suspensions end up being enforced, the Vikings could spend the first quarter of the season playing from behind and unleashing Favre (or Tarvaris Jackson/Sage Rosenfels) to make it rain rather than grinding out the game with A.P. They won’t benefit from a strong defensive front.
  5. Running Style: Peterson still runs too upright, which makes him prone to injury throughout the season when defenses are gunning to stop him. While he didn’t miss any games last season or in 2008, that might mean he’s due.
  6. Fumbles: A.P. had 7 fumbles last season. He had 9 in 2008. I’d say the slight improvement inspires confidence, but it doesn’t. His fumbles are a consistent problem, and they won’t stop.
  7. Contract Issues: We’ve talked all offseason about Chris Johnson and the possibility he might hold out for a bigger contract, but A.P. was also absent from offseason workouts this year. Brad Childress’ lack of information about his absence suggests the relationship between coach and star running back might be turning sour. A.P. isn’t holding out, but a conflict with Childress or the team about the way he’s being used or his contract could lead to issues during the season.
  8. Rookie Competition: What kind of issues? Minnesota drafted Toby Gerhart, a ground-and-pound runner who won’t fill the void Chester Taylor left as the back on third downs. Instead, he could vulture a touchdown here and there, especially if Adrian Peterson has ball control issues. There’s no telling how he might creep onto the field right now, and when he’s on the field, A.P.’s not getting you any fantasy points.
  9. Involvement in the Passing Game: He’s not involved enough in the passing game. Both Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew excel at catching passes out of the backfield. Even without Chester Taylor, A.P. won’t have as big a role in the passing game, which cuts into his value. If you’re going to draft someone other than Johnson, you should at least consider MJD instead of A.P.
  10. College Allegiance: He’s a Sooner. Isn’t that enough?

In short, I’m not saying you have to draft Johnson. The first pick is yours to do with as you please. Draft a kicker if you want. That’ll go over well. But don’t take a pass on Chris Johnson just because history tells us he won’t repeat his 2009 campaign.

Whatever Johnson does in 2010 is probably going to be good enough to anchor your team at the RB1 spot, and that makes him a safe pick, worthy of being taken first overall in the draft. When you get first dibs, you have to make sure you get consistent points every week from that star player, and Johnson should do that.

If he does what he says he will and breaks 2500 yards…yeah, that’ll work, too.

Jerome Harrison’s Week 15 Fantasy Playoff Surprise: A Tragedy in Three Parts

There’s no way someone in the fantasy football playoffs was starting Jerome Harrison this week, is there? If so, you must have just received your Christmas miracle.

Did you save an old woman trying to cross the street? Donate an organ to an ill friend? Give a dollar a day to a child in a third-world country? Develop the swine flu vaccine? Whatever you did, it worked, my friend.

No one expected Jerome Harrison, the recently forgotten back in Cleveland, to get a significant amount of carries in Sunday’s not-at-all-playoff-relevant battle between the Browns and the Chiefs. The Mangenius himself hinted that Cleveland’s electric special teamer Josh Cribbs could play a larger role in the running game. Chris Jennings had gotten the 20 carries against the Steelers for 73 yards and a touchdown just one week ago. If anyone was going to be the “traditional” running back in Week 15, it was surely going to be Jennings.

But no. It was Jerome Harrison that stole the show with the third-best rushing performance in NFL history, behind only Adrian Peterson and Jamal Lewis. He also passed up Jim Brown’s single-game team record of 237 yards with his 286-yard, three touchdown blowout. Harrison added 12 receiving yards just because he could.

Outside of a few phenomenal quarterback showings, including Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Joe Flacco, no one even came close to scoring as many points as Jerome Harrison’s 47.8 in standard fantasy scoring.

Josh Cribbs got his, two kick returns of over 100 yards for the NFL record eight he now has, but he didn’t factor into the running game as some suspected he might.

Both Cleveland’s Week 15 stars will be remembered in Canton for these performances, but fantasy football owners will struggle to recover from the depression that comes with losing to the rare, brave soul who started Jerome Harrison this week or be haunted by the self-loathing that comes with losing by just a few points in the fantasy football playoffs while Harrison added 47.8 points to your team’s bench.

And the most tragic part of this tale? Harrison may not even be a good start in Week 16 against Oakland. Would you dare?

Feel free to vent if Jerome Harrison wasn’t your Christmas miracle.

A Fool and His Money – Week 4

Bengals (-5.5) over BROWNS
The Bengals beat the Packers and Steelers in back-to-back games. The Browns finally benched Ms. Quinn, but Derek Anderson somehow managed to play worse in his second half debut. I have to imagine it’s tough for anybody to like the Browns in this one.

Lions (+10) over BEARS
The first step is admitting you have a problem. I admit I do not like Jay Cutler and that my picks regarding Chicago this year should be taken with a grain of salt.

Raiders (+9) over TEXANS
The Texans were on a nice little win streak before they went to Oakland last year. Oakland’s strength is anything but JaMarcus Russell passing, AKA running the ball. The Texans have one of the worst run defenses in the league. That leads me to believe Schaub will be on the sidelines a lot and that this game will be closer than people think.

Seahawks (+11) over COLTS
The Colts are looking very good, but 11 points? I can’t turn that down.

Bucs (+7) over REDSKINS
The Redskins are going to be booed by their home fans for losing to Detroit last week. They barely beat the Rams the week before that. The Bucs will smell blood in the water just like the Lions last week.

Titans (-3) over JAGS
I’m having trouble letting go. The Titans are 0-3, yet I keep picking them. I view this game as a win-win situation. If they win, great. If they lose, the Vince Young grumblings will get a little louder.

Giants (-8.5) over CHIEFS
The Chiefs have the 30th ranked total offense and 22nd ranked total defense. The Giants have the second ranked total defense and sixth ranked total offense. That points to a double-digit can of whoop-ass where I come from.

Ravens (+2) over PATRIOTS
This is a tough one for me. The Patriots had a solid statement game against the Falcons last week, but the Ravens have done everything asked of them so far this season. I am going to stick with the Ravens until they do me wrong.

Bills (-2) over DOLPHINS
The Dolphins have a decent run defense, but shutting down the Marshawn Lynch-Fred Jackson combo won’t be easy. And as much as I don’t like him, my gut says T.O. will have a solid game to make up for the goose egg he put up last week.

SAINTS (-7) over Jets
I keep picking against Mark Sanchez and the Jets. Maybe this will be the week that I’m actually right. I think the Saints will put points on the board no matter who they are playing, but I’m not sure the Jets can do the same on the road.

49ERS (-10) over Rams
The 49ers are going to come out angry after letting the Vikings game slip away from them. Their defense is opportunistic at home, and I’m guessing Kyle Boller will try to do a little too much in the starting role.

Cowboys (-3) over BRONCOS
I realize the Broncos are 3-0, but I’m still going with the Cowboys. They have more talent, and their ground game is punishing teams right now.

Chargers (+6.5) over STEELERS
This is way too many points for the Steelers to be favored by. They have lost two in a row and have done nothing this season to justify that spread. This is a no-brainer pick regardless of who you think is going to win.

Packers (+3.5) over VIKINGS
Brett Favre is saying all the right things this week, but there is no way it’s just another game to him. I’m guessing he will go out and try to win this game himself instead of just handing off to Purple Jesus like he should. This is must-watch TV no matter which team you root for.

Season Record: 16-16

Foolish Thoughts: They aren’t who we thought they were

Oh, Week 1, you cruel, cruel mistress. Just when we think we have it all figured out, the perfect team, the perfect season, you bring us back to reality.

Yes, this week we had football — real NFL football. Football that counted! But we also saw how the offseason, that tricky devil that fills in the gap between the Super Bowl and the next weekend we care about, deceives us. Those positive, uplifting stories melt away when Jake Delhomme throws more picks than Aerosmith, and the St. Louis Rams fail to notch a single point against an NFC West opponent.

It’s sobering, if sober is your thing, to see your team come back down to earth. Well, back down to earth if you weren’t starting Drew Brees. If you have Brees, you get to look like a genius this week. And we all hate you. Oh, and you too, Adrian Peterson owners. No one liked that you got the first pick anyway, and now, they get to build on that grudge when A.P. blows up in the first week.

There are only a few people who can tell you exactly how they are going to beat you and then do it right before your eyes — Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs come to mind. None of them are football players. At the end of the day, any team could stop one individual player from playing their game in a given week. It just so happens that giving your opponent an entire offseason to prepare tends to really give them a great game plan against your offensive stars.

But such is fantasy football. If knowing what you were doing allowed you to draft a perfect team every time, for every week, the game wouldn’t allow trades, and trades are really where you make your name in fantasy football. After Week 1 scores are recorded, the real men — and real women — assess their teams, hedge their offseason bets and acquire some new talent if the opportunity arises. We now know how things have changed, and we’re not in hot water just yet.

And yes, I know you’re not scared yet if you own Brees or Adrian Peterson, but you’ll see other teams catch you unaware if you let a Week 1 victory convince you that your team is perfect. Your bench is rarely perfect, but you can make it better a little bit at a time every week.

Jay Cutler obviously watched too much Jake Delhomme game film this week. He tried to do too much, but I think his picks were more an indication of how well-prepared Green Bay’s defense was, even having changed schemes this offseason. The Packers don’t look like they’re still learning, and they lost the “sleeper defense” tag that some had put on them this preseason.

Aaron Rodgers, for all the offensive success the Packers had this preseason, was also a surprisingly disappointing fantasy start this week. If not for those late game moves, he would have been a killer. But I guess only Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub were killers this week.

As a side story to Brees’ touchdown-machine performance, Reggie Bush couldn’t hold onto the ball against the Lions, even after the most work he’s ever done in the offseason. Bad sign for Bush owners.

Steven Jackson had me going for a bit with his whole Web series about how he is the greatest running back ever to touch the ground. Apparently, the camera adds 10 yards, and there were only six cameras on him in the Seattle game. Maybe he’ll fare better when he’s not facing what some say is “the best linebacking corps in the NFL,” but after disliking him this offseason, he isn’t helping his case.

There would be no quarterback controversy in Philadelphia as long as Donovan McNabb stayed healthy, but he cracked a rib against Carolina just in time to cause a scare. If he can’t get back on the field or gets injured again early this season, the Vick chants in Philadelphia might get louder.

It was almost too predictable that Anthony Gonzalez, the player who might have gathered the most “nice pick” comments in your fantasy draft this season, got injured in his Week 1 start against Jacksonville. He’ll sit out at least the next two weeks, but he could miss up to six weeks with his strained knee ligament.

Only two of my fantasy teams ran away with it this Sunday. I have two on the fence going into Monday night, and one that is going to need some overhaul this week. It’s good to have you back, football, and now the real fun begins.

Stay tuned for more this week as we’ll try to fix your Week 1 woes. Tonight, we get to see the Patriots, Bills, Chargers and Raiders take the field. Best of luck if you’re on the Monday night bubble. I’m looking for a nice night for Randy Moss.