Trent Richardson traded to Colts

Trent Richardson is an Indianapolis Colt

Trent Richardson traded to ColtsYes, you’ve heard. The Cleveland Browns have traded Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts.

When I first heard the news, I thought it was a mistake, but it seems the Browns are serious about wanting to be terrible this season.

The fallout for fantasy owners is pretty obvious. Continue reading

Week 13 Pickups: We should have Knowshon Better

It’s getting too late in the season to be reading this unless you’ve already got a playoff spot. I hope you do. But if you’re reading this with no hope of making it to the big dance, I commend you.

So what if your team imploded early in the season? You made a commitment to play 13 weeks, and I respect that. The best thing you can do when your team disappoints you early in the year is to keep making moves and improving your roster. Maybe those wins don’t matter down the stretch, but there’s nothing like knocking someone out of the playoffs when you have no shot of getting there yourself.

The best leagues have teams that remain competitive every year.

Not to mention, you’re only going to get better if you practice, practice, practice at making moves and building a team that can compete. By playing out your full string of games, you’ll figure out what you did wrong.

So what did we do wrong last week?

Week 13 Pickups

Knowshon Moreno was the surprise starter and workhorse back for the Broncos Sunday. While Ronnie Hillman is the explosive rookie, we all must have forgotten John Fox loves his vets.

Moreno does a better job of protecting the Broncos’ biggest asset on offense, Peyton Manning, so he’ll be getting most of the work in Willis McGahee‘s stead. Readjust your waiver claims and go all-in for Moreno. He’s no RB1, but decent yardage and the occasional score is totally on the radar. He’s a RB2 in the right matchups (and assuming Hillman doesn’t get anything more than a few touches per game moving forward).

Bryce Brown hit the fantasy football world in the mouth Monday night with a two-touchdown performance against the Panthers.

While he’s only the Eagles’ starter until LeSean McCoy returns, it sounds like McCoy could be out for an extended period of time. He still hasn’t passed Phase 1 of the concussion tests, which places him behind Michael Vick in terms of who’ll return to the field first.

In his place, Brown showed us he’s got RB1 ability, and he might even keep some of that workload if/when McCoy comes back. Go all in with any leftover FAAB you got stashed if you need a temporary RB2 with RB1 upside.

Since Andre Brown is out of the year, David Wilson should be back on your radar. He’ll be Ahmad Bradshaw‘s reliever for the next few weeks with a chance to start when Bradshaw eventually injures himself enough to miss time. But knowing how the Giants’ coaches feel about Wilson, they may bring in veteran depth if that happened.

And Jalen Parmele‘s time in the sun has passed. His groin injury sent him to IR this week and left us with the utterly disappointing Rashad Jennings. Claim ‘em if you gotta.

Outside of these shifts in the running back pecking order, there’s a whole collection of young wide receivers to stash if you need some receiver depth for the playoffs. Tops among them are Ryan Broyles and Chris Givens. I tend to like Broyles more because he’s shown playmaking ability all over the field and should remain a starter next to Megatron for the rest of the year. But Givens has a beauty of a schedule. Both could be WR3s or decent WR2s the rest of the way.

After Broyles and Givens, there’s  Mohamed Sanu, the slow but sure-handed compliment to A.J. Green these past few weeks. He’s quietly making his living in the end zone and doing it well. Standard-scoring leagues take note, and PPR leagues should stash him for depth as he could continue his hot streak in the playoffs. He has WR2 upside when he’s scoring every week.

The options are a little more risky after that. T.Y. Hilton was explosive on Sunday, but he’s hard to trust while still splitting time with Donnie Avery.

Jarius Wright will fill in while Percy Harvin remains sidelined, but Kyle Rudolph seems to benefit more than Wright from Harvin’s absence.

If you can’t get your hands on any of these players, dig back in our waiver wire archives. Good luck making it into your fantasy football playoffs.

Free Handcuffs with every frame bed

Unleash the Handcuffs: Andre Brown, Bilal Powell, Daryl Richardson are Week 3 Pickups

Free Handcuffs with every frame bed
Week 2 brought the injuries, now didn’t it? I can’t say I enjoyed watching Steven Jackson sit through the second half…especially after he was doing so well before he sat down.

Aaron Hernandez owners may still crying after seeing him go back to the locker room without putting any points on the board. Of all the less serious injuries, Ahmad Bradshaw’s neck injury seems to be the only one that hasn’t been clarified since the games were played.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. I did that already this week.

Let’s get better. Say it together…WITH FEELING!

Just like last week, these are presented in the order I’d go after them. Dollar dollar bill FAAB suggestions are also listed beside each player.

Week 3 Pickups

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions (<5%)
If no one owns him yet, you should be able to pick him up on the cheap. Kevin Smith doesn’t have the full confidence of this team. That much we could see as the Lions went with Joique Bell on several touches in Week 2. There’s a good chance Leshoure returns in Week 3 and makes this job all his own, and Lions RBs are good for fantasy points.

Andre Brown, RB, Giants (10%)
When Ahmad Bradshaw went down, we all expected to see David Wilson. Instead, we got Brown as the workhorse back, and he performed well. He’ll be the RB to own if Bradshaw misses any time this week and probably keeps a good portion of the work if Bradshaw misses additional time. Wilson’s got some work to do to get himself out of the doghouse.

Martellus Bennett, TE, Giants (5%)
Bennett has quickly become the third option in this Giants’ offense and one of the top tight end options through the first two weeks. Make sure he’s not in the pool, especially if you’re sitting on a lesser option like Fred Davis.

Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens (5%)
He’s getting a ton of looks in this offense. While some of it may be game plan, two weeks is enough to notice the trend, which makes him worth a grab. The rumor is that he’s Flacco’s best friend on the team, and you know how that works out for tight ends. *COUGH* Witten *COUGH* I’d look to fill your Aaron Hernandez hole with Pitta or Bennett this week.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings (<5%)
You’re still letting this guy sit on the waiver wire? He’s on the radar after scoring this week, and I expect his big breakout game to happen sooner rather than later.

Greg Little, WR, Browns (0%)
He lives. But the Browns aren’t going to be producing like this week to week. Still, if you’re looking for a WR3 with potential, he’s worth stashing in all leagues for bye weeks and potential garbage time production.

Brent Celek, TE, Eagles (0%)
Celek might not have as high a ceiling as the tight ends listed above, but he still might be an upgrade for Fred Davis owners/sufferers.

Bilal Powell, RB, Jets (0%)
Powell has been on my watch list all season. When Shonn Greene went out of the game, he took the carries and did more with them. Powell’s worth stashing as we wait for the Jets to look past Greene on the depth chart for something with a little more punch.

Daryl Richardson, RB, Rams (0%)
When Jackson didn’t return after his ball-spiking penalty in the second quarter, we all thought he was being punished. Turns out, it was only his fantasy owners getting the punishment as Jackson suffered a groin injury that prevented him from reentering the game. It was Richardson, not Isaiah Pead, who took over the game for the Rams when Steven Jackson went down. We can safely say that Richardson is the handcuff for Jackson, and he’ll be the RB to own if Jackson can’t go in Week 3. For now, all signs point to Jackson being back in the lineup Week 3, which makes Richardson just a stash.

Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (0%)
So maybe the Rams aren’t so terrible? I’m undecided, but Bradford certainly had good numbers against the Redskins. Washington suffered several injuries on the defensive side of the ball in this one, which took some pressure off of the Rams offensive line that needed the help. In short, swap your backup QB out for Bradford if you’re worried about your current guy.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals (0%)
I know he had a good showing against the Browns, but I just don’t think Dalton is dependable as anything more than a QB2. That said, you might look to Dalton during the bye weeks if your QB2 isn’t looking so hot.

WATCH LIST

Andrew Hawkins, WR, Bengals
The shifty wide receiver has made his mark two weeks in a row now. He’s worth keeping on your radar as a potential WR3, and he is worth stashing if you’re in a PPR league.

Jackie Battle, RB, Chargers
I see Battle’s stats from this week as a flash in the pan just before the return of Ryan Mathews. When Mathews takes the field, I don’t think we’ll see Battle get this many touches. His usage in Week 2 is probably a result of how little Ronnie Brown has left in the tank. If Mathews doesn’t return in Week 3 or goes down with another injury, keep your eye on Battle.

Week 2 Hot Hands, Cold Shoulders: Bradshaw FTW, Bench Benson and Think Twice Before You Take Out the Cadillac

It’s that time again. Time to dust off the old lineups and see what you’ve got for Week 2. Lucky for us, we now have one week of games to look at and make judgment calls, but it’s still pretty hard to tell whether the Bucs and Chiefs are good…or whether the Browns and Chargers are just that bad.

If you got your hands on Brandon Jackson this week off the waiver wire, you’re sitting pretty with his too tempting matchup with the Buffalo defense. Gotta love it. Start that hot hand.

And I’m giddy that Ahmad Bradshaw gets a chance to go up against the Indy run defense that just surrendered 3 TDs to Arian Foster in Week 1.

But it’s feeling pretty chilly in Miami for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, whose cold shoulders have to face the stout Minnesota Vikings D/ST.

Chad Henne doesn’t quite provide the same threat to pass as Drew Brees. Without a substantial threat, the Vikings will be able focus on stopping the run and keep Brown from unleashing the Wildcat in Week 2.

I really want to like Cadillac Williams like TMR does this week. I really do. But I’m having a hard time. Something about not scoring against the Browns just rubs me the wrong way, and this talk of getting the other running backs more involved from Bucs’ coach Raheem Morris doesn’t help.

It’s Week 2, but even though I own him in one league, I don’t see myself starting him (That’s what Brandon Jackson is for). I’d rather have more than 8-9 points out of my RB2.

Jabar Gaffney is another hot hand in Denver. He faces the Seattle Seahawks this week, and I’m not convinced that the Seahawks played the real 49ers in Week 1.

Strangely enough, I want to give the Chiefs D/ST a chance this week. That Monday night performance against the Chargers was miraculous. Dexter McCluster looks like a touchdown waiting to happen everytime he’s in the game. With him returning kicks, what’s not to like? I like it all, especially against the Browns.

KC’s defense might just outperform expectations as long as you have a sub for them when they visit the Colts and the Texans in back-to-back weeks. That won’t be pretty.

I am doubting the Vikings this week. As I said earlier in the week, they haven’t shown me anything in the passing game that excites me. I have no confidence in them.

So why am I going to start Brett Favre over Jay Cutler? I just fear the Dallas pass rush vs. a Mike Martz offense that much. Favre is the safe play, and I guess I am playing it safe. I hate it when I do that.

Razzball has my back on sitting Cutler.

FFXtreme loves DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart while they be hating on Cedric Benson. I am not part of the DeAngelo Williams fan club, but there is a lot to like about anyone facing Tampa Bay’s run defense.

If you want to play the Williams and “The Daily Show” (Jonathan Stewart) game, this week is as good as any to play it. Fingers crossed the one you pick gets the TDs.

On the Benson front, I know he tore up the Ravens last season, but I think they’ll remember him for that. The Ravens weakness is in the secondary, where they are without Ed Reed and have suffered a lot of injuries this preseason. The front seven will have to compensate, and priority No. 1 of that compensation plan is accounting for Benson. Much like the Jets-Ravens game last week, this game will probably come down to who capitalizes on their possessions and takes care of the football. Look elsewhere if you have any more exciting options.

Fanhouse’s got some sleepers for you like Mike Bell and Seneca Wallace, and I’m seriously considering starting Legedu Naanee.

USA Today’s Fantasy Joe is one of the few places I see recommending Todd Heap. If he can stay healthy, I tend to agree with them.

For more sit/start advice, check out FF Librarian, Sports Illustrated’s projections, Fanhouse’s rankings, The FF Geek Blog rankings, and FF Toolbox’s collection of starts, sits and sleepers. Good luck this week.

Foolish Thoughts: Terrible throwbacks and games to throw back

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

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

The Close Ones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surprise, surprise

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Usual Returns

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

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

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

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

The Sinking of the Titanic

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

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

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

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

Without T.O., is Romo still an elite fantasy quarterback?

It’s the debate that began as soon as the Cowboys released Terrell Owens: Where does Tony Romo rank without his prized target in the passing game? I’ve exchanged emails with fellow Fools writer Chadam and several other fantasy football compatriots since my post on the release of the infamous No. 81, but I’ve been reluctant to pass judgment…until now.

T.O. was the big target, drawing the most balls from Romo, even when he couldn’t catch them all, and striking the most fear in opposing defenses. Sure, the Cowboys still have tight end Jason Witten, who is likely to be the leading receiver again anyway, but will he be open across the middle without a legitimate playmaker demanding coverage on the outside? Hard to say.

The Hole T.O. Leaves Behind
Romo’s hopes for fantasy glory this season rest in newly-promoted No. 1 receiver Roy Williams, a playmaker during his days at Texas who has had just one dominant season in the NFL. Williams spent most of his time in Detroit putting up mediocre numbers and suffering from injuries before falling into the shadow of Calvin Johnson.

After being traded to Dallas, Williams never seemed to get on track, either due to unknown injuries or an inability to get in sync with Romo. While the talent may be there for him to be a true No. 1 in the Cowboys’ offense, Williams will have to duplicate or exceed his best season in the NFL to make it happen.

Finding Stability at the No. 2 Position
As if it wasn’t enough to have a questionable No. 1, the Cowboys also have a hole on the other side of the ball. While he currently ranks No. 2 on the depth chart, Patrick Crayton has been inconsistent and untrustworthy as a No. 2 wide receiver for the Cowboys. Without T.O. drawing coverage, his No. 3-ish talents just won’t cut it. The promising but oft-injured Miles Austin has a chance to snag this spot in 2009, but, once again, we’re looking for a player to have a breakout year, better than any of his previous seasons. Crayton, if he keeps his starting spot, can do little to help Romo remain at the top of the fantasy charts.

More Running, More Problems
Romo’s chances to put up those fantasy points may also be limited this season by adjustments to the offense. The emergence of Tashard Choice late last season gives the Cowboys the opportunity to put the Giants’ three-headed beast running attack into place. The New York Giants ran over almost every team in the league last season thanks to Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw playing Earth, Wind and Fire. Carries slotted for Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice will balance out the Cowboys’ attack but would also take the ball out of Romo’s hands more than in the past two seasons, which will further limit his chances for fantasy success.

Slotting Romo for 2009
In short, Romo’s got a question mark for a No. 1 receiver, a battle for the No. 2 spot and a potential shift in the offense towards the running game. He may still have his tight end in Witten, but all of these uncertainties don’t bode well for him remaining among the best of the best in fantasy.

It takes a lot for a Cowboys fan to admit that his quarterback has been taken down a notch, but all signs point to a downgrade.

Last season, the Cowboys aerial attack suffered because teams would shade towards Owens and keep him from getting open, a problem Roy Williams was brought in to combat. Without Owens, Williams will get the same treatment. Miles Austin or Sam Hurd could breakout this season and raise the talent level at the No. 2 spot, but that’s expecting a lot of players who haven’t shown they can carry a starting load just yet.

I still expect Romo to finish in the top 10 at his position, but gone, at least for this season, are the days when you could safely draft the Cowboys’ quarterback in the first round and build a team around his production. He’s a high second-tier quarterback selection at best but a solid starter, and I still have him among my top seven fantasy quarterbacks going into 2009. Depending on your location — I’m out of luck in Texas — you might just be able to talk him down enough to get him at a bargain rate this season in the fourth round of your fantasy draft or later.

If you agree to disagree, do it up in the comments. I’m certainly open to keeping this talk going. After all, Tony Romo is my quarterback — single tear.

Divisional Playoffs, Part 2: Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

So the Cardinals have game — and a run game at that. Of course, who really needs a balanced attack when Larry Fitzgerald can do whatever he wants on the field and you benefit from more than five turnovers?

Looks like the Buzzsaw is bound for the next round, so who will get you there in the fantasy playoffs?

San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Chargers come into Pittsburgh after finishing strong and knocking the Indianapolis Colts off in overtime with the legs of Darren Sproles, but the Steel Curtain closes this attack. Without LaDainian Tomlinson, I don’t see Sproles being able to carry the Chargers far against the Pittsburgh defense, and Philip Rivers cannot do it all with Troy Polamalu covering the field.

The Steelers offense is weakened with a concussed Ben Roethlisberger, but they can still pound the ball with Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore. The Chargers will make more mistakes, and the Steelers have enough to capitalize on them. Even though San Diego has been nice to opposing quarterbacks all season, it’s hard to put faith in the arm of a guy who got taken off in a stretcher just weeks ago. I’ll stick with the run game.

Try as he might, Rivers shouldn’t be able to take this one, but he can certainly try with Vincent Jackson and some help from Sproles.

Hot Hands: Willie Parker, Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles

Bubble Boys: Mewelde Moore, Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Antonio Gates, Nate Kaeding

Cold Shoulders: Heath Miller, LaDainian Tomlinson

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

The Eagles, much like the Chargers, had it all fall into their lap at the end of the season. They’re hot right now, and it’s hard to like the Giants more than the Eagles with the Giants cold finish to the regular season.

Despite the return of Brandon Jacobs, the Giants are likely to have a hard time running the ball against this Eagles squad, and the momentum is in the Eagles’ favor. The Giants will miss having Plaxico Burress as a playmaker. They either lose this game or take it in a nail-biter.

Calling it for Philadelphia, I like Brent Celek as a sleeper tight end. L.J. Smith is only going to see limited action, and Celek gets the start. For those of you trying to budget your roster for this week, Celek is a nice ‘buy low’ to go big at other positions.

Hot Hands: Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Brent Celek, Brandon Jacobs, David Akers

Bubble Boys: Eli Manning, Kevin Boss, Domenik Hixon, Ahmad Bradshaw, Derrick Ward

Cold Shoulders: L.J. Smith, Amani Toomer

On the Wire: Week 17 Pickups and Players Still Playing

Is it true? Do I really have to mention David Carr this week? Somehow, he managed to find his way onto a team that is so set for the playoffs that they don’t mind starting him. Punch me in the kidney.

If you’re still playing this week in Week 17, there’s not much I can do for you. In theory, your team is all set, but as we have seen year after year, it’s always a surprise who plays and plays a full game in the final week of the season.

Of course, there are backups out there that could help you in your roster-filling search for this week. Here are a few to consider.

David Carr, QB New York Giants
The man, the myth, the legend will actually have a good chance for some playing time this week as the Giants face the Vikings. Eli Manning has no reason to play if the game is lost early, and David Carr has every reason to push for a win if he takes the field. His father is a Bears fan, after all. Maybe all Carr needed was the motivation that his play could affect the Bears. (He would fit in there in Chicago.)

Vince Young, QB Tennessee Titans
The one thing more dangerous than playing any of your Giants this week is playing any Titans or Colts. Neither team has any business doing anything in this game, so it’s likely to be a battle of backups after halftime or as soon as the game looks to be getting one-sided. As talented as Jim Sorgi is, I think I would bet on Vince Young being the more effective backup man on Sunday.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB New York Giants
When Eli sits, so shall Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. Bradshaw is the RB I would be on playing in the second half of this one … but I have to wonder how much that play time will even be worth when the Giants have no reason to win this game — besides the will of David Carr, that is.

Maurice Morris, RB Seattle Seahawks
It’s crazy to think no one owns him, but after his show against the Jets, he’s on the safer side of plays this week and facing the Cardinals. I don’t care if the Cardinals are playing this game like it’s a playoff game. The Seahawks will be playing one like it’s there coach’s last game, and that can light a fire under teams.

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals
I’d recommend a rock wearing a jersey if it was taking on the Chiefs run defense. You can quote that.

Billy Miller, TE New Orleans Saints
If Jeremy Shockey doesn’t play, fantasy owners can look once against to Billy Miller. I don’t love him against Carolina, but it’s hard enough to nail down tight ends who will have a big week on any given Sunday. Miller has as good a chance as any of the selections on the wire at this point.

Atlanta D/ST
Playing St. Louis at home is a ticket to good fantasy-ville.

Week 3 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Obviously, things change in fantasy football. There’s no Tom Brady, and therefore, no Randy Moss. Offenses in Seattle, Cincinnati and Cleveland are in shambles. Jacksonville keeps turning it over, and the Denver Broncos might have the most explosive offense of 2008.

Shanny, we knew you had it in you. I won’t even say that I called it. (I CALLED IT), but it was right there in front of our noses. This year might be a competition between T.O. and Baby T.O. for the top wide receiver spot.

Who else is hot this week? (Well, besides the obvious.)

Hot Hands

J.T. O’Sullivan, Bryant Johnson, Isaac Bruce vs. Lions: We are starting bold. The 49ers face off against Mike Martz’s former home. I think Detroit probably knows a lot of Martz’s schemes, but Martz also knows how to exploit the Detroit defense — not like that information is really top secret. I like this one to be high scoring and crazy. If you have J.T. O’Sullivan on your roster, this week and next week against the Saints look like his best starts of the year.

Frank Gore vs. Lions: Detroit cannot stop the run. Gore will get some action.

Jon Kitna, Calvin Johnson vs. 49ers: An explosive contest and a weak secondary make the interception-prone QB a nice play this week.

All Your Broncos vs. Saints: Jay Cutler and his boys manhandled the Chargers defense last week. They’ll do the same to the Saints. Brandon Marshall could break the record for most receptions in a game in this one. I like it. The only exception to this rule is Selvin Young, who might be only a yardage guy from here on out.

Chris Johnson vs. Texans: Fast Willie Parker had 3 TDs, and this kid is faster.

Reggie Bush vs. Broncos: He’ll be relied upon as a target against the corners in Denver. Bush will have to pull some big plays to win, and Darren Sproles made the Broncos look they were standing still a few times last week.

Steve Smith vs. Vikings: Just in case you forgot he was on your roster. If he’s not on your roster and you want to get crazy, send a trade offer to see if you can smuggle him away before he even sees the field. With Randy Moss gone, Steve Smith might be the only challenger to Terrell Owens and Baby T.O. for the top WR spot.

Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Bengals: Destroy, Brandon Jacobs! Destroy! Ahmad Bradshaw even makes a decent start since he’s forgotten what he learned in kindergarten and no longer plans on sharing touchdowns. What does Jacobs have to do for a touchdown? Run over TWO safeties. I think Jacobs gets his first score this week. The Bengals defensive players are only on the roster because they are trying out for the offense.

Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress vs. Bengals: Surely, Eli and Plax will join in on the fun as well. You can’t just let Brandon Jacobs run the ball all day.

Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Matt Cassel vs. Dolphins: This week, Moss wakes up. He still remembers what to do when the ball comes his way.

Buffalo Bills D/ST vs. Raiders: JaMarcus Russell against the aggressive, healthy Buffalo defense. *Salivating* If the Oakland cornerbacks come to play, this game could become a contest to control the clock. Buffalo’s schedule gets good from here.

Philip Rivers vs. Jets: With L.T. slowed by his injury, Rivers could look to find Chambers again. They’ll want to put plenty of points on the board to keep themselves out of trouble in this one.

Matt Hasselbeck, John Carlson vs. Rams: New wide receivers and an easy day against the Rams could be all that Hasselbeck needs to come alive again. He might be the slow-starting Brees of 2007. Even though Hasselbeck gets new hands this week, he just might be growing fond of Carlson’s. Look for the rookie TE to have a decent day against the Rams — who doesn’t?

Julius Jones vs. Rams: Jones could have a similar day to his 127 yards and a TD against San Francisco.

Bubble Boys

Michael Turner vs. Chiefs: Injury could hinder his performance, but if he’s 100 percent, Turner could tear the Chiefs run defense up just like Michael Bush and Darren McFadden did last week. Pop this bubble if you see him off the injury report come Friday.

Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings vs. Cowboys: If Rodgers wants to win this one, he’s probably going to have to air it to stay ahead of Romo. I respect the Dallas corners even if they have given up a lot of yardage. Rodgers isn’t going to have as big a week as he did against Detroit, but he should do something.

Randy McMichael vs. Seahawks: Seattle might be on the worst defenses that the Rams face all year, but they should still get after Bulger. McMichael could have another Week 1 performance where he reaps the benefit of Bulger’s rushed passing. It’s a risk I’m willing to take unless, of course, I have a better option.

Brett Favre vs. Chargers: Favre’s risky, vertical throwing could get him into trouble against this secondary. The Chargers are hungry for a win after they had the Broncos’ game stolen by ‘Roid Ref. You might consider giving Favre a week off, but then again, it’s Monday night. That Stuckey guy will probably nail a TD or two down. That guy’s my nemesis.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor vs. Colts: Matt Forte didn’t need that great of an offensive line to run on the Colts. The Jags line could come together to make these two productive again, but maybe the Colts go up by so much, they don’t get a chance. I remember when this Colts-Jaguars matchup used to be a heated showdown…those were the days.

Larry Johnson vs. Falcons: L.J. is losing carries to Jamaal Charles, and I hated Charles when he was a Longhorn. Charles is just a fast pair of legs with unsure hands, but L.J. is an unsure set of legs with fast hands. (That means he’s good at magic tricks like making a five-yard play into a one-yard gain.) If Johnson’s yards per carry decreases, it’s because he’s running backwards. Might be time to put Charles on your roster.

Cold Shoulders

Lee Evans vs. Raiders: I know Jay Cutler exposed the Raiders lazy cornerback play, but Evans will get blanketed by he who cannot be named, Nnamdi Asomugha. While Evans is back to fantasy relevance this year, he should have a quiet one this week.

Pierre Thomas, Deuce McAllister vs. Broncos: You can run on Denver, but who is doing the running? If Deuce really does get worked into this rotation, it just muddies the value of Thomas. Are they playing Denver or is this Shanahan coaching their run game too?

Earnest Graham vs. Bears: He had a nice score last week, but this week’s Bears defense won’t let him get loose. He’ll have yardage, but I wouldn’t count on much more than that.

Ryan Grant vs. Cowboys: Until he’s healthy, he’s not going to have a good game. Against the Cowboys defense, he’ll need a good hamstring to be effective.

Steve Slaton, Chris Taylor vs. Titans: The Titans eat running backs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t try. Just don’t.

Chad Pennington vs. Patriots: Lacking their star corner, the Patriots still make it tough to throw on them. It won’t matter if Pennington has a My Size Barbie arm. Putting the ball through the air is just going to be hard.

All Raiders besides Darren McFadden vs. Bills: Buffalo will attack JaMarcus Russell from all sides. This game should show everyone that Buffalo is worth carrying on your roster as a starting defense, and it doesn’t get bad for the rest of the season.

Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis vs. Ravens: One more week of pain.

David Garrard vs. Colts: See above.

Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson/Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Giants: The New York RB wrecking crew controls the clock in this one and will require that the Bengals put something in the air to win, but Palmer just doesn’t have it right now. The Bengals passing game is bench-worthy until I see a spark.

Green Bay Packers D/ST vs. Cowboys: It’s just not a good idea to play your defense against the Cowboys this season.

Sleeper candidates:

I’ll take a few shots in the dark this week, and we’ll see how that works out for me.

Michael Pittman vs. Saints: When the Broncos get close, look for Pittman to punch them into the end zone all day. Don’t get too confident. The Saints might let Royal and Marshall finish every catch at the goal post, but Pittman could get you a score or two in this one if you are hurting at RB.

Jerious Norwood vs. Chiefs: If Turner is slowed, Norwood could have a big day. McFadden used his speed to torch the Chiefs last week, and Norwood has some speed of his own.

Post any sit/start questions in the comments for help setting your roster this week. I have to get back to practicing my route running with Matt Hasselbeck.

Free agents, controversial players on the move pre-Combine [NFL Rumors]

What better way to start day 1 of the NFL Combine coverage than with a collection of trade and free agency rumors from around the NFL. There are several key free agents making moves out there that you should keep your eye on for fantasy football in 2008.

After making his rounds around the Patriots and Saints, Zach Thomas signed with the Cowboys. His $3 million salary isn’t as much as his stats, but it’s not about the money. Thomas wanted to return to his hometown team and hopes to be able to be tackling for the Cowboys rather than hitting linemen. Thomas could be a high impact player for the Cowboys defense, a unit that did well for fantasy owners in 2007 already.

Rex Grossman signed for another year with Chicago as “the starter.” He got replaced last year after a poor start, so there’s nothing stopping Lovie Smith from replacing mid-season in 2008. The quarterback situation for the Bears probably won’t be worked out until after the draft and training camp, but there are rumors that Brian Griese may have played his last ball in Chicago.

While the talk has been that Alge Crumpler would be happy in Carolina next season after Atlanta released him, the Tennessee Titans have an interest in him for 2008. With Bo Scaife hurt and possibly not starting immediately in 2007, and Ben Troupe probably on his way out, Vince Young could use another tight end target. The Titans utilized the tight end effectively in 2007 with Scaife being third on the team in receptions and receiving yards, so Crumpler might find a productive situation there like he had with Michael Vick in Atlanta.

Tampa Bay is considering a trade with the Denver Broncos for the unhappy Javon Walker. Although he had a bum knee this season, Walker still have a playmaker ability within him that the Bucs could use. It wouldn’t be a very long-term solution for Tampa Bay though since their receivers are all getting up there in age. They might not be willing to make a good enough deal for Walker and could take a young rookie in the draft instead.

After saying he wanted to stay in Atlanta, DeAngelo Hall didn’t receive the warm welcome he wanted from the new coaching staff, and he went off to reporters that he wants out. According to the latest rumors, both the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins are interested. The Giants are probably more likely to deal for him and could seriously use him with all the poor secondary play they had early in 2007. The Dolphins have expressed interest in Hall and Troy Williamson of the Minnesota Vikings. They likely would only take Hall if they had a good deal for him considering Parcells probably doesn’t want Hall’s off the field drama.

Fullback Lorenzo Neal is on the block with the Chargers. He is 37, but he might still have a good year or two left in him. He spent the last several years blocking for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, so it will be interesting to see whether L.T.’s running game is affected if Neal goes.

Now for players who are staying put…

If you think Rudi Johnson‘s 2007 running game for the Cincinnati Bengals had declined, you might find him a changed man in 2008. Rudi plans to put on weight this offseason and return to his power running game. If he achieves his goal, he could surprise in 2008 and might be a steal come fantasy draft day.

Speaking of player with a lull in 2007, Lee Evans may get some help with the Buffalo Bill. Evans, as the only passing threat of the Bills, was horribly double-teamed and shut down this season. To help him out, the Bills are rumored to be taking a big wide receiver like Malcolm Kelly from Oklahoma or possibly DeSean Jackson from Cal. Depending on Trent Edwards’ development, the Buffalo Bills could have a very improved passing game in 2008.

The Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, are looking for some speed in the running back department. While they love Edgerrin James for his production in 2007, they want a change up back that can hit those homerun drives–like a Ahmad Bradshaw or Adrian Peterson–and they will seek one in the draft ths year.