On the Wire: The Must-Haves, Week 14 Pickups for Fantasy Football Playoffs

There aren’t many names out there that I haven’t mentioned previously, but if you’re strengthening your roster for a playoff run, some favorable schedules make these players more lucrative grabs than others.

If you didn’t secure a quarterback with a favorable schedule during the fantasy playoffs, or if you are worried about your starter sitting down a few weeks early (Peyton Manning owners), becoming senile (Brett Favre owners), or being further concussed (Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger owners), there are still a few quarterbacks available that could fill that void.

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
He won over the coaching staff and the team after replacing Shaun Hill midseason, but he’s won over fantasy owners in recent weeks after the 49ers installed a spread offense. In the spread, Smith has been deadly effective, and Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan, and Michael Crabtree should continue to benefit. Best of all? In Week 16, he faces the Detroit Lions in what could be your fantasy Super Bowl. You can’t ask for a sweeter matchup.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans
As I showed with the stat analysis I did on VY last week, he’s got one of the best schedules in the NFL in Weeks 14-16, and he’s got a running back that will keep defenses from every shutting down the passing game. If you’re in desperate need of a reliable starter with the potential for greatness, VY is the guy.

Others you might consider in the order I would consider them (if I were you, hoping not to have to consider them): Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins; Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills; Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Oakland Raiders; Brady Quinn, QB, Cleveland Browns.

All have schedules that could give them a boost in these final weeks, but none of them are quarterbacks I would want to bet my season on unless I had lost all hope. Also note that Joe Flacco gets to play the Detroit Lions this week, if you’re in need of a miracle and able to acquire him.

This week’s bright spots are led by a few running backs you may have forgotten.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns
He’s scoring his points through the air thanks to Brady Quinn’s renewed effectiveness. As long as that keeps up, and as long as Harrison keeps the majority of the workload at running back, he is in line for a few big days in the coming weeks.

Correll Buckhalter, RB, Denver Broncos
Now that he’s healthy, he’ll get to share a lot more carries with Knowshon Moreno. While Moreno got the scores against Kansas City, Buckhalter’s explosive runs and his ability to catch passes makes him a threat to take any given play to the house. Even without scoring, he’s putting up enough yardage to contribute if your current starter faces a tough stretch. Matt Forte, we’re still looking at you.

Chris Brown, RB, Houston Texans
He’s a big brute, but a brute who scores touchdowns is never worth complaining about. Things are murky in Houston’s backfield, but I prefer Brown to Ryan Moats. His playoff schedule could give him plenty of chances to line up at the goal line for a score.

And if you’re receivers have become garbage (Devin Hester owners) or suspended (Dwayne Bowe owners), there are a few young guns to add to your roster.

Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins
Better than he seems in the stat line, Bess has been a PPR stud all year and finally got a chance to shine in the Miami passing frenzy that overwhelmed the Patriots. If it keeps up, Bess will, too.

Devin Thomas, WR, Washington Redskins
Okay, so the Redskins do have an offense. Jason Campbell found Thomas for two touchdowns this past week, and he could be in line for more down the stretch as Campbell fights to remain relevant in Washington (and the NFL in general) and while Thomas proves he’s no bust.

Josh Morgan, WR,  San Francisco 49ers
See Alex Smith. In the spread offense, Morgan has become a favorite target, and again, fantasy Super Bowl vs. Detroit. That’s worth a shot-in-the-dark start.

Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans Saints
Last week, I had to make last-minute swaps to get Hartley in for John Carney when the Saints finally decided to switch back to their younger leg. But it paid off big. As TMR points out, he plays all but Week 17 indoors, where it is nice and cozy.

D/STs for the Playoff Run

Sports Data Hub pointed out how good the New Orleans Saints D/ST is looking for the fantasy playoffs. Hopefully, you, like me, were able to stash them in Week 5 and ride them all the way to the end of the season. Looks like the good times haven’t come to an end yet.

But if you didn’t listen then or had already missed your chance at owning Brees’ boys, The FF Geek Blog has a short list of defenses to plug into your lineup this week. Out of that list, Green Bay is another favorite to set and forget for your run at the championship, especially coming off their Monday night performance against Baltimore.

If you need more, compare notes with KFFL, ESPN’s Talented Mr. Roto, FF Toolbox, Fanhouse, The FF Geek Blog, Lester’s Legends, and Fantasy Joe.

For an extensive list of additional waiver wire resources, check out the linkage by the Fantasy Football Librarian.

Foolish Thoughts: Forsett, Snelling, Scott, and McCoy offer instant gratification

When one of your fantasy football studs gets injured, fantasy owners usually face a tough decision. Should you go get that backup, the one who hasn’t seen more than five touches in any game this year? Or should you just find another running back or wide receiver on the waiver wire who’ll get it done until your stud returns?

Especially early in the fantasy season, I’ve often avoided taking the backups and gone the other way. Why? Well, I like instant gratification.

In rare cases, NFL backups outperform the former starter as Steve Slaton did last season, and it’s not easy to expect them to match the production of the starter they replace. Most of the time, backups need a week or two to get accustomed to their new role in the offense and to gain the trust of the rest of the team.

But in Week 11, you didn’t have to wait.

Ricky Williams, Justin Forsett, Jason Snelling, Bernard Scott, and LeSean McCoy all went off for the owners of Julius Jones, Michael Turner, Cedric Benson, and Brian Westbrook who were able to find some help on the waiver wire.

Even those who started desperation-play Jamaal Charles against the Steelers or Beanie Wells as a good-on-paper start against St. Louis were rewarded.

The only bad replacements this week were Chris Simms, who was pulled for a still-injured Kyle Orton after failing to score on the Chargers, and Ladell Betts, who tore both his ACL and PCL against the Cowboys and will miss the rest of the season.

In the case of Forsett and McCoy, this week could be a changing of the guard. Julius Jones has never lived up to expectations since signing with the Seahawks, and Westbrook might never see the field again this season after suffering his second concussion.

For Charles’ and Wells’ fantasy owners, this sets up a nice looking playoff picture.

Williams seems like he’ll be okay without his Wildcat partner Ronnie Brown as he secured the top spot for running backs in most fantasy scoring formats. His performance should serve as a reminder of how much you can benefit from stocking your bench with guys who are just one small injury away from a lucrative starting job.

Scott rushed for 119 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards against the Oakland Raiders defense in a loss, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get a shot against the Browns and the Lions since Benson could return.

Snelling’s in the same spot. Despite scoring twice and coming in second in fantasy scoring for running backs, Snelling could see Jerious Norwood cut into his carries if Norwood’s healthier in Week 12. There’s also a chance that Michael Turner could make an early return.

But you can’t be disappointed with this kind of late-season “early bloomers.”

Maybe it’s a good sign for those owners who suffered more injuries this week.

Kurt Warner bowed out at halftime after suffering a couple of blows to the head. With that playoff schedule, Matt Leinart would be in high demand if Warner misses a game.

Big Ben “fall down, go boom” in overtime against the Chiefs with a hit to his noggin, and soon after, backup quarterback Charlie Batch injured his wrist enough to keep him out the rest of the regular season. That leaves Dennis Dixon sitting in the quarterback seat unless Big Ben is healthy enough to start on Sunday.

With Betts out, Rock Cartwright ran for 67 rushing yards and had seven catches for 73 yards in the loss to the Cowboys. The Redskins might soon regret not taking a shot at Larry Johnson. Without the services of Portis, Washington may be forced to go get Shaun Alexander as depth at running back.

Heaven forbid you were counting on Marc Bulger for your team, but he’ll miss the rest of the fantasy regular season with a fractured tibia. Kyle Boller takes over, which could be a blessing or a curse for Steven Jackson’s owners.

Just for the sake of noting a tree falling in the forest and not making a sound…Terrell Owens caught nine for 197 yards and a touchdown, most of that on one long touchdown strike. You leave that guy open and he’s dangerous.

But how often will the opposing team make that mistake against the Bills?

In what might qualify as a charity game, Matthew Stafford and Brady Quinn had multi-touchdown days. Stafford threw for five touchdowns; Quinn had four. It must have seemed just like practice for them to play against such terrible defense. At least leading receivers Calvin Johnson and Mohamed Massaquoi had a good time with it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julius Jones? Well, is anyone missing him?

Is that crickets I hear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Wire: Week 10 Pickups, Slim Pickings but Quick Mobile Picks

Updated: Wed, Nov. 11.

I’ve been in California this week at a conference. I don’t know how these people handle football starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays. It’s just plain weird.

But the important thing here is that I haven’t had Internet all week. Sorry, hotel, but I am not going to pay a limb per day to get on the Interwebs. I’m actually writing this right now from my G1 phone.

So hang with me. I’ll come back on Wednesday to flesh this one out with more options, but for now, I’ll cover all that my thumbs can endure. (Note: Now updated with a real keyboard and some of the skin left on my thumbs from writing this the first time on a smartphone.)

Hot Claims

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: If no one has jumped on him yet, Larry Johnson’s release leaves him as the most valuable back in Kansas City. That value is somewhere between Adrian Peterson and a shiny penny.

Chris Chambers, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: Two touchdowns? But I thought he was dead. Don’t see him duplicating this performance, and he is a Chief after all. I guess if you are desperate for wide receiver help, he is, in fact, NOT dead. PPR leagues might put more value on him since we know Kansas City will be throwing.

Ladell Betts, RB, Washington Redskins: Clinton Portis finally went down. Betts has filled in extremely well in the past, but this offense is not up to par with the one Betts stepped into years ago. That said, Betts filling in for Portis might be good for the Redskins.

Jason Hill, WR, San Francisco 49ers: He’s been on the cusp of a fantasy breakout before, but Jason Hill may get another chance if Isaac Bruce misses this week’s game. Hill had two touchdowns this past week, and Alex Smith likely had plenty of practice time with him while he was on the second-team offense earlier this season.

If you have the room on your roster to speculate on any of these guys, you might as well.

Fantasy Filler

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: Looks like he’s back and able to start this week against the Chiefs, but can we trust him? I’ll believe it when he can turn in two back-to-back fantasy-start-worthy performances. Haven’t seen one solid one yet this season.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions: There may be few touchdowns in his future this season, but the rookie tight end is finally becoming enough of a factor in this offense to trust if you are desperate.

Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Three touchdowns…but look at those attempts. Don’t get more excited than you need to be about another rookie quarterback. He’s an emergency backup option for now.

Brady Quinn, QB, Cleveland Browns: ESPN reports that he will get the start this week for Cleveland, but I wouldn’t expect much more than what we saw the last time around. This move is more likely just to see if either of the Browns’ quarterbacks will be worth keeping this offseason.

I’d rather have Vince Young, Chad Henne or even Josh Freeman on my roster.

Long-term Investments

Larry Johnson, RB, Free Agent: There’s a chance he lands somewhere and matters. There’s also a chance he plays Xbox with Shaun Alexander every Sunday for the rest of the season.

Lance Long, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: He had eight catches this past week. Shows promise, but I’d like to see it again before I use a roster spot on him. He is familiar with Todd Haley’s system from his time on the Arizona practice squad last year.

Droppables

Patrick Crayton is not to be trusted. Justin Fargas may sink down the depth chart now that McFadden is healthy enough to start. Willie Parker may never be healthy again. Glen Coffee is concussed. Jason Campbell’s not healthy either. Domenik Hixon and Muhsin Muhammed just aren’t going to win you any games.

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: The Brady Bench, Law of Averages and Josh Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Fool and His Money – Week 1

Week 1 is my favorite week to make bets. You get to trust your gut more than any other week of the season, and you feel extremely smug when your predictions come true.

But the first games are also full of questions. Which teams developed chemistry over the offseason? Who will exceed expectations, and who will disappoint? There is money to be made if you can answer these questions correctly.

STEELERS (-6) over Titans
Will the Titans’ defense be the same without Albert Haynesworth? I have no qualms with the Titans’ defense, but I do have problems with trusting Kerry Collins. I predict Vince Young will get his chance for redemption at some point in the season.

Cowboys (-6) over BUCS
Are the Cowboys serious NFC contenders this year? They need to stomp teams like Tampa Bay if they are.

Lions (+13) over SAINTS
Did Kevin Smith really guarantee the playoffs this year? Even Lions’ players and fans can be optimistic this time of year.

FALCONS (-4) over Dolphins
Which one of these teams will take a step back this year? My vote is for the one that loses this game.

TEXANS (-4.5) over Jets
Have you met Mario Williams yet? Rookie QB Mark Sanchez is about to meet him for first time. This is the year the Texans need to finish over .500. People have been talking about this team for a couple of seasons — now show us something!

BENGALS (-4) over Broncos
Does anybody know what to expect from either of these teams? I think the Bengals have more potential so I’m going with them.

PANTHERS (+1.5) over Eagles
Why isn’t anyone talking about the Panthers this year? They had the best fantasy player in the game last year and the best record in the NFC.

Jags (+7) over COLTS
Has any team been more consistent this past decade? No Bob Sanders or Marvin Harrison this season. I like the Colts to win, but seven points is just too much for me.

Vikings (-4) over BROWNS
Is Brady Quinn still a loser? The answer is always yes. This line seems suspiciously low to me, but I’m going to take the bait and pick the Vikings.

Chiefs (+13) over RAVENS
Who can turn down 13 points? Not me — at least not during the first week when we still have a lot to learn about teams.

Redskins (+6.5) over GIANTS
Is this Jason Campbell’s last chance? If he doesn’t step up this year, I think it’s time for the Redskins to start looking in a different direction.

SEAHAWKS (-8.5) over Rams
Was last year a fluke? Everyone knows these teams were decimated by injuries last year, but we need to see who will bounce back quicker. I personally expect an NFC West division title for the Seahawks.

49ers (+6.5) over CARDINALS
Who doesn’t love Mike Singletary? From his future Coors Light commercial quotes to his obsession with hills, I want to believe the 49ers can take a step forward this year.

PACKERS (-3.5) over Bears
Do you believe the hype? A lot of people are very high on both these teams in the NFC. I don’t forget which players and teams wronged me last year, and Jay Cutler is at the top of that list. I bet he hangs out with Brady Quinn in the offseason.

PATRIOTS (-10.5) over Bills
Is Brady back? Normally, I don’t like giving double-digit points in the first week, but I believe the Patriots will try and turn this into a statement game by running up the score.

Chargers (-9) over RAIDERS
Could anything the Raiders do surprise you at this point? Stupid draft picks, violent head coaches, dumb trades. I wish I could bet the over on L.T. getting more than 30 fantasy points this week.

Season Record
Nick: 0-0-0

Foolish Thoughts on Week 15: I’m all out of love, so lost without you

It was hard to bring my thoughts together between fits of extreme sobbing after watching all the football games in a very serious, totally masculine way this weekend.

Yes, I lost at Nick’s hands this week, one game away from the championship … in a game where I was “projected” to win by 50 points.

Thank you, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans and Brian Westbrook for dropping the ball when I needed you most.

I could blame Peyton Manning for managing only one touchdown against the Lions or Matt Forte for being just gimpy enough after a slight injury to barely crack double digits, but I’m still too happy with both of them this season. Forte was the best pick I made in the draft this year, and Manning reclaimed the title of “The Better Manning” … and, therefore, shoved the lesser Elisha Manning back down a notch, where he belongs.

Going into Monday night’s Eagles-Browns showdown, I needed 35+ points from Brian Westbrook and no-name tight end Steve Heiden, backing up the injured Kellen Winslow for the Browns (and my fantasy team). If Westbrook could get another 30 points against the Browns, maybe Heiden could get me those last critical points by catching a garbage-time touchdown or catching a few escape passes from the not-so-Brady-Quinn-esque Ken Dorsey as he ran for his life. I mean, the Eagles do have a little problem covering tight ends. It’s possible.

Sadly, not only did Westbrook do a whole lot of nothing in this one because Andy Reid obviously reads things I say about him, but Heiden was carted off the field with an injury after catching zero passes for zero yards. As the cart went off the field, so did my season in my primary fantasy league (the one with the biggest trophy).

Losing when you are so close to the prize just leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. As a guy, it’s sort of like hearing that some famous female celebrity is becoming one of those every-man’s-fantasy lesbians and then discovering that her hot hookup partner is this thing.

Now, that’s just disappointing.

But alas, it’s no shocker that the prohibitive favorite loses out in the playoffs. There’s always an Antonio Bryant, a Tarvaris Jackson or a Dominic Rhodes waiting in the wings to blow up the top seeds in the playoffs.

Just look at what the Giants did in the playoffs last season. If you knew who was going to win, we wouldn’t play them.

That’s actually why the NFL is considering canceling the rest of the Detroit Lions’ games. We all know how they are going to go.

Even though Peyton Manning was less than explosive against the Lions on Sunday, Dallas Clark had a huge game for his fantasy owners with 142 yards and a score. It looks like he’s ramping up for fantasy owners in the playoffs.

I guess he really is that awesome…

The one bright spot of this weekend was the Cowboys-Giants game, the drama unfolding on the big Sunday Night Football stage. Just like Plaxico Burress, it seems the Giants are shooting themselves in the leg this season when it matters most, and, as a true Cowboys fan, I was happy to see that the Cowboys showed up to play.

After a week of intense “what did Terrell Owens say now” stories plastered all over ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to flop. That didn’t happen and now their hot story of the week seems to have blown up in their hands.

I’m really no T.O. lover. I’m sort of indifferent to him until the press about a guy gets to a roaring buzz — so basically, the same way I feel about Brett Favre.

I think blaming him for any Cowboys loss, regardless of how politically correct his postgame interviews are, is getting old. Especially after the press tour he seems to have gone on to clear his name, it’s hard not to take his side.

Ed Werder doesn’t seem like the kind of journalist who would fabricate a story, but I wonder why he didn’t try to get a quote from T.O. about the words that were being put into the wide receiver’s mouth by an anonymous source before going public with the story.

When he does say something about his teammates or quarterback, T.O.’s never been one to cover it up.

At least the drama is coming to a close for now, and I think that T.O. and Ed Werder will make up.

T.O. reportedly sent Werder a famous Japanese foot massager as a peace offering.

On quarterbacks
Who would have thought that the leading scorers at quarterback in Week 15 would be Matt Cassel, Tarvaris Jackson, David Garrard and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

That, my friends, is magical.

On “Freedom” running backs
Pierre Thomas is legit. Looks like the Saints will be chunking the Deuce this offseason for their hot, new French toy.

Thomas had his way with the Bears defense on Thursday night while the Bears’ running backs struggled to do anything against the Saints. I fear what he can do this week against the Lions.

His only competition is Reggie Bush, who can’t stay on the field for an entire NFL season due to badunkadunk. Besides, Bush’s only a pretend running back anyway.

Since that’s about all I have to say about the French, here’s a message from the “That’s a country?” video collection.

And yes, France is a country.

If you currently own Pierre Thomas, you might be smarter than a fifth grader.

On finding meaning this holiday season
James Jones going off against the Jaguars might be a sign — not for this week or next week but for next season as Donald Driver heads closer and closer to Marvin Harrison-ism.

On the other hand, Dennis Northcutt’s big game means nothing. It’s one of those warmest-body-on-the-field games.

Do you know who Johnnie Lee Higgins is? Big arm + playmaking wide receiver = potential. Keep an eye on a kid like this one in Oakland this offseason. Two big games this year leave the door open for a brighter tomorrow.

Maybe Al Davis will sell the team or give up overhead projector firings. You never know.

On Pro Bowl “picks”
First of all, the Pro Bowl rosters would make for one hell of a fantasy team. I salivated just reading the names of the backups, but Brett Favre? The pick master is one of the league’s best?

As much as I dislike him, where’s the Philip Rivers love? Even the Pro Bowl needs a crier.

A Fool and His Money in Week 12

We haven’t had a lot of fancy talk here at the top of “A Fool and His Money” these last few weeks, but that’s because, just like any NFL franchise, we focus during this part of the season. The games start to matter more, and we’re ready to get down to business.

Let’s not waste any time.

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

Fools Take: STEELERS (-10.5) over Bengals

Nick says: Did the Bengals defense really hold the Eagles to 13 points in five quarters? The Steelers will win this game, and I’m guessing Cincinnati can’t even keep it close without Ocho Cinco in the lineup.

San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys

Fools Take: 49ers (+11) over COWBOYS

Nick says: Everything is hunky-dory now that Tony Romo is back in town, right? I’m not convinced he is the answer to all their problems. I expect a fired up San Francisco team to give the Cowboys all they can handle.

Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens

Fools Take: RAVENS (-1.5) over Eagles

Nick says: Neither of these teams looked impressive at all last week, and a 1.5 line means it’s virtually a toss up since the NFL doesn’t allow ties. Isn’t that right, Donovan McNabb? I like Ray Lewis and the Ravens to rebound at home against Andy Reid and company.

New York Jets at Tennessee Titans

Fools Take: TITANS (-5.5) over Jets

Nick says: The Titans just keep getting it done. I think this might be the game in which the cookie crumbles though. The Jets have a solid defense, good running game and a QB who can occasionally catch fire and go into another zone altogether. I would definitely understand if people put some money on the Jets to win this one, but I’m sticking with the Titans until they lose. Like I said before, they just keep getting it done.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Fools Take: CHIEFS (+3) over Bills

Nick says: Buffalo has lost four in a row and are, all of a sudden, .500. The Chiefs have been playing teams close lately, but they still only have one win on their record to show for it. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I like the Chiefs to win this one straight up.

Minnesota Vikings at Jacksonville Jaguars

Fools Take: Vikings (+2.5) over JAGS

Nick says: It appears there are no in-between spreads this week. All the spreads are either a field goal or more than eight points. That doesn’t make this very easy. My gut says to go with the Vikings, and the fact that I’m getting a few points just confirms what I think.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Fools Take: Patriots (+2) over DOLPHINS $

Nick says: If there is one thing I’ve learned about Belichick, it’s that he is a vindictive S.O.B. I would not be surprised if Matt Walsh wakes up one day with the head of a horse in his bed. Belichick definitely did not enjoy being embarrassed by the Dolphins and will look to return the favor this week down in Miami. If Cassel continues playing with confidence, watch out.

Chicago Bears at St. Louis Rams

Fools Take: Bears (-8.5) over RAMS $

Nick says: Kyle Orton played last week, but he was not the Kyle Orton that we saw pre-injury. I picked up Robbie Gould last week for my fantasy team, and his lousy three points cost me the game. I can’t imagine the Bears not being able to easily beat the Rams though, especially with Steven Jackson out another week.

Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns

Fools Take: Texans (+3) over BROWNS

Nick says: I don’t care how bad Sage Rosenfels or this line is. I refuse to pick the Browns with Blumpkin Quinn leading their team. I know Steve Slaton is already overachieving, but if he could just step it up a little more this week, I would appreciate it. Thanks, Steve.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions

Fools Take: Bucs (-9) over LIONS

Nick says: I guess I need to face the facts eventually that the Bucs are a legit team. I’ll give them a shot this week against lowly Detroit. Don’t make me regret it, Jeff Garcia.

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

Fools Take: BRONCOS (-9.5) over Raiders

Nick says: By now, everybody should know my feelings towards the Raiders. They are capable of covering spreads, just not on the road.

Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: SEAHAWKS (+3.5) over Redskins
Nick Takes: Redskins (-3.5) over SEAHAWKS

In taking the Redskins, Nick says: This matchup is one game that could get the Redskins back on track or reignite the Seattle Seahawks out of the puddle of misery they’ve been wallowing in lately. Both teams need this game. Unfortunately, I think the Redskins are more talented, and the twelfth man in Seattle is no longer what it used to be.

New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals

Fools Take: Giants (-3.5) over CARDINALS

Nick says: Quick, what is the Giants’ record this year? The answer is 9-1. That answer means the Giants are a pretty good football team. The Cardinals have not beaten a team with a record better than 6-4. The Cardinals may be good at beating the teams they are supposed to beat, but they have yet to beat a true playoff contender. They are going to have to prove it to me before they get a real vote of confidence. At least the game is in Arizona.

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Panthers (+1) over FALCONS
Nick Takes: FALCONS (-1) over Panthers

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers

Fools Take: Colts (-3) over CHARGERS

Nick says: What happened to the Chargers this year? If the Chiefs had completed their two-point conversion two weeks ago, this team would be 3-7. Instead, they are in the weakest division in football and still have a chance to make the playoffs. They need this win to keep the dream alive, but the only problem is that Peyton Manning has started to heat up at the right time of the season. If we are lucky, we might get a few new commercials by the time the Super Bowl comes around.

Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints

Fools Take: Packers (+2.5) over SAINTS $

Nick says: I thought last week was a statement game by the Packers. They destroyed the Bears. I like this team a lot more now that Ryan Grant is getting it going again.

Last Week:

Nick: 5-11 (Ouch!)

Current Standings after Week 11:

Nick: 81-73-2
Nick’s Locks: 3-2

Foolish Thoughts on Week 11: There’s no tying in football

There’s no tying in football. None. You only get one sudden death overtime, and if no team can manage to score a single point, you’re done.

It’s bad enough that Andy Reid and the Eagles have a hard time managing the clock, but before taking the field to come away even with one of the worst teams in the NFL, did no one on the sidelines discuss that the game would be over at the end of the first overtime? You know, a tie?

I think knowing that they only had a few precious minutes to score would have come in handy when the Eagles were letting the time tick by, but maybe Andy Reid was just as tired of watching the miserable performance as we were.

Left guard Todd Herremans said hearing the referee declare the game a tie was an odd experience.

“I’ve never tied before. Definitely a strange feeling,” Herremans said. “Empty. It feels like the game’s unfinished. Neither team is happy with a tie.”

I’ll tell you what made me feel empty and strange, watching Brian Westbrook collect just 60 rushing yards against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.

Please tell me why the Eagles would suddenly decide that their passing game was the answer against a team that is top-10 against the pass and in the bottom 10 against the run?

I should have spent the afternoon learning how to play the theremin.

Tarvaris Jackson wasn’t doing it for the Vikings during the first two weeks of the season and saw the bench so that the Vikings could give an older, wiser, smarter quarterback, Gus Frerotte, a shot.

Now that we’re halfway through the season with ol’ Gus, maybe they should go back to Tarvaris. Frerotte’s scoring in the end zone, but he’s still not a fantasy-worthy QB with nine picks in his last five games. Those Super Bowl predictions for the Vikings before this season were terribly misguided.

Why wasn’t anyone talking about the Cardinals instead? Oh yeah.

While you guys were busy salivating over Tyler Thigpen, Shaun Hill made his run at being the best backup quarterback to come in for the second half of the season. He made a pretty good case for himself with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown against the Rams…in the first half.

Thiggy and Hill could save several fantasy teams here at the end of the season and in the playoffs. Both will probably be passing quite a bit in Weeks 14, 15 and 16.

The top quarterbacks from Week 11 are Matt Cassel, Shaun Hill and Kerry Collins. How messed up is that? Very.

Kurt Warner and Jay Cutler were supposed to amaze this week, but both QBs found other ways to win while having mediocre fantasy days. Thanks, jerks.

Even worse than the QB ranks for this week, the wide receiver ranks feature Justin Gage as the leading scorer. If every team tries to take away the Titans running game from here on out, the fantasy production on that team could flip to the passing game.

I’m not saying that I would pick up any of the Titans receivers, but it might be worth watching if you are sitting on a bunch of deadbeats at receiver.

Email I just received from Joseph Addai:

Well, hello there, everyone. Just wanted to let you know that I am back. Hope you enjoyed watching me go crazy on the Texans. You better not have benched me to wait and see what I would do! The rushing schedule from here looks fantastic.

Email I received minutes later from Ryan Grant:

What he said. Me, too. kthxbai.

Peyton Hillis got two touchdowns in his first appearance as the primary back for Denver. If you have to bet on a horse out of the Broncos’ stables of misfortune, he looks like the one to take.

Tatum Bell was seen eyeing Hillis’ bags after the game but decided to steal all of Selvin Young’s underwear instead.

The real story of the week was the kid drafted in the sixth round out of Arizona, Spencer Larsen, who goes both ways.

No, really, he started on both offense and defense as Denver’s middle linebacker and fullback. What did you think I was saying?

In fact, he started on special teams as well, so I guess that means that he went three ways. No comment.

The Dallas Cowboys at least have a little fire in them now that Romo has returned, but Marion Barber is the real gear that turned to get them a win in Washington last night. Going forward, they’ll have to develop the passing game, but owners of Tony Romo and Terrell Owens are going to have to wait a little longer.

If you own the Steelers defense, you’re probably really pissed that the forward pass penalty nullified the last-second fumble recovery for a touchdown. The refs are now saying it should have counted, but even if the NFL changes the score, will your fantasy system/site update the Steelers D/ST points?

Sometimes these things get left “as is” for fantasy owners if a change isn’t made until after Monday night. I expect some controversy to come out of this one, and I want my six points!

Looking ahead at Monday night, I only have one question. Which QB will look the worst: Miss Brady Quinn or Trent “Too Smart for His Own Consciousness” Edwards?

Can’t wait to find out.