Foolish Thoughts: Wherefore art thou Patriots?

These Patriots are clearly not the same team that we expected to see back on the field with Brady’s return.

When New England traded Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders, it proved one thing: Bill Belichick will do anything for a first round draft pick. Draft picks are like crack to him. Belichick cannot refuse. If you gave him enough first round picks, he’d probably give away Tom Brady and his own kidney. Maybe two kidneys.

While that 2011 pick looks delicious right now, the Patriots defense does not. Belichick couldn’t have planned on losing Jerod Mayo in the first game of the season, but he certainly knew that the defense would suffer without Mike Vrabel, traded to Kansas City, and Richard Seymour. The new blood on defense hasn’t found their rhythm yet this season, and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez capitalized on their failings in Week 2.

Belichick seems to have an uncanny ability to find spare parts and plug them in as exact clones of the starters he has in place — *cough* Julian Edelman *cough* — but the team as a whole can’t get back to 2007 form.

Tom Brady hasn’t been getting the same zip on his passes, and the Jets’ Darrelle Revis was an absolute stud against Randy Moss, much like he was against Andre Johnson in Week 1. It might be time to sit your stud wide receiver when he faces the Jets.

Should you abandon your Patriots? No, of course not. As long as they aren’t playing the Jets defense, the Patriots offense should still create fantasy stars.

But if you drafted the New England defense with the expectation that they would enjoy a healthy dose of turnovers once Brady forced opponents into a throwing match, you might need to look for a second option.

Speaking of teams playing out of character
In the midst of the Titans-Texans score-a-thon, it was obvious to everyone watching that Chris Johnson is the Titan’s offense. The Titans rode the wave of that undefeated streak last year off the play of their excellent defense, which has lost the ability to generate a pass rush without Albert Haynesworth and exposed some holes in the secondary.

Maybe Kerry Collins is the problem. Maybe his time has come, or maybe I just give Vince Young too much credit. Without a doubt, the Titans are going to need some creativity on offense.

Maybe they can just direct snap to Chris Johnson and call it a day. My fantasy team would be completely cool with that. Completely.

One rib shy of the rack
Matt Hasselbeck took a big hit that knocked him out of his game this week, but it looks like he’ll be okay. It was just a broken rib, and it’s not like he has a history of injury or anything… Oh, wait, this could be a problem.

Discharged
The Chargers defense lost Shawne Merriman again at the end of yesterday’s game against the Ravens to a groin strain, but the bigger blow was the loss of Jamal Williams this week. Without him in the middle of the defense, the Chargers might run into some trouble.

Are things coming together in a perfect storm for Philip Rivers owners? He just might have to carry the Chargers for a few weeks.

The Wildcat comes to special teams
Maybe that’s why they list Sage Rosenfels as the third quarterback, eh? Sneaky Brad Childress…

Have you seen the Green Bay bomber?
Greg Jennings, where did you go? He checked out of the Bengals game Casper-style, but I don’t think Aaron Rodgers will let that happen again if the Packers want to keep that offense on the right track.

Breaking ankles
With this week’s sprained ankle for Brian Westbrook and last week’s sprained ankle for L.T., we could be looking at a season of Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy pretty soon. Waiver wire accordingly.

At the closing Bell
Mike Bell may have lost his hold on the running back job in New Orleans by spraining his own MCL Sunday. It was too good to be true, but we’ll have to wait until the final diagnosis to see if Bell was just a two-week waiver wire savior.

Pierre Thomas owners certainly wouldn’t mind Bell being removed from the competition.

Even after two weeks of play, we’re still not quite sure who some of these teams are. Are the Jags the worst team in football? Are the 49ers really going to smashmouth their way to an NFC West title? Is Cadillac Williams a member of the undead, come back to own the running game in Tampa Bay? I guess we’ll see.

As always, the comments are yours.

On the Wire: Week 2 Pickups and Sleepers

Welcome to the first edition of our in-season “On the Wire” spectacular, coming to you every week from the sadness of your own heart. If you’re players are underperforming or injured, we’re here to pick you up for the low, low price of four installments of free.

We’ll keep it short and simple — listing a few players each week who could upgrade your team and a few sleepers who might perform well in the next week. If you like what you see, go get them on your waiver wire, and if there’s anyone else you are considering picking up for your fantasy squad, bring him up in the discussion in the comments below.

Here are a few potential fantasy free agents who could help your team this week:

Mike Bell, RB, New Orleans Saints: He’ll have a rough time this week against the Eagles, but as long as Pierre Thomas is out, he’ll get the bulk of the Saints workload.

Cadillac Williams, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: His knees seem better now, but what the hell did they put in there? He looked stronger than ever and bionic on Sunday. He’ll share time with Derrick Ward, but he’s a decent RB3 to consider at this point.

Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders: Bush will be a short-yardage, goal line back for the Raiders, a team who will run the ball plenty this year. When he spells Darren McFadden, he could also be spelling your fantasy team.

Earl Bennett, WR, Chicago Bears: In his second season with the Bears, he’s finally emerging as a possession receiver for Jay Cutler.

Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins: The receiver-by-rotation model the Dolphins are using makes him a risky pickup, but Bess was the Dolphins’ leading receiver this weekend. If that moves him up the Dolphins’ depth chart, he’ll continue to have value in PPR leagues, but he’s unlikely to score a lot of touchdowns.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts: If not Garcon, it’s Austin Collie, but whoever fills in for Anthony Gonzalez will have value and will face Miami this weekend.

Laurent Robinson, WR, St. Louis Rams: So they do have someone besides Donnie Avery? Robinson was a sleeper back when he was with the Falcons, but he has finally caught on in St. Louis. They could use the help.

Steve Smith, WR, New York Giants: If undrafted, the other Steve Smith could be a stud in PPR leagues this season as Eli Manning’s No. 1 guy.

Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Looks like they’ll use him in this offense. You could, too. Harvin’s explosive and could be Brett Favre’s new Chansi Stuckey.

John Carlson, TE, Seattle Seahawks: If no one in your league drafted him this year — probably unlikely — you should correct that. He’s a young tight end who should be one of the top two targets in the Seattle offense, and he’s a great red zone option for Matt Hasselbeck. His two-touchdown performance on Sunday could be repeated against other NFC West opponents throughout the season.

Jeremy Shockey, TE, New Orleans Saints: Don’t expect him to do that every week, but Shockey could be a solid tight end for you this season if your current guy was disappointing in the first week.

Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets: He won’t win you any games, but Sanchez could be a Joe Flacco-like rookie quarterback this season if the Jets continue to dominate Baltimore-style. He has potential as a backup.

Chaz Schilens, WR, Oakland Raiders: Write this one down. Schilens is out right now with a broken foot, but upon his return, he should be the No. 1 in Oakland, where JaMarcus Russell seems able and willing to make big plays. Louis Murphy stood out last night, but Schilens could easily take over that role very soon. Consider this one a longer-term investment.

Washington Redskins, D/ST: St. Louis meets Albert Haynesworth this week. Who wants a Bulger sandwich? How about a pancake?

For more pickups this week, check out FF Toolbox, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog and FF Report.

Foolish Thoughts: Are you ready for some football?

The final weekend of the preseason might be the worst week as an NFL fan. Starters play only a few minutes while coaches get a look at the rest of the depth chart to make final cuts, and we all know that in just one more week the games will actually mean something. While the Labor Day weekend appeased us with some college football action, real NFL football is now just days away.

Hopefully, you had a good draft without falling victim to many common mistakes. It won’t be long before we see all those third-year wide receivers breaking out and all those high-workload running backs breaking down, or will they?

Big News This Week

In a surprise move, the Detroit Lions declared Matthew Stafford their starter against New Orleans. I expected Stafford to get the call eventually this year, but Daunte Culpepper had outplayed him in camp and in the preseason until his foot injury — oh, the dangers of carpet. Culpepper was expected to at least start the year under center before handing it off to Stafford.

With the golden boy taking the heat right away, don’t expect a Matt Ryan rookie season out of Stafford. He’s a young rookie, and there will be plenty of hard times this season to go along with all the good ones. He actually takes a bit away from Calvin Johnson in my mind since he’s likely to turnover the ball as many times as he gets it down the field.

Tampa Bay also shocked us this weekend. Not by firing their offensive coordinator — there are plenty of people doing that — but by naming Cadillac Williams, the man with the bionic knees, as their starter. Williams will still be splitting time with Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham in some kind of sinful 2-2-1 RBBC combo, but on any given Sunday, he’ll get the first crack at the defense and the first chance to shine. That’s worth something.

Now that you’ve drafted

With your team assembled, this week’s a great time to take care of a few housekeeping issues. Have you checked out how well your backup quarterback fits your starter’s bye week? Have you looked at how your team stacks up for the fantasy playoffs?

These things are good to keep in mind heading into the season. Knowing you have a bad matchup in the playoffs will allow you to start shopping a player in the middle of the season and unload him for something of equal or greater value that can get you to the championship.

I am not too afraid of Green Bay’s tough road in the fantasy playoffs, but Washington looks more and more like a team to get rid of quickly this year.

Shots in the Dark

With the excitement of the preseason, bold statements come out of the woodwork. Unless you’re just looking at the facts and only the facts, you’re probably expecting one of the following predictions to come true. How good do you feel about it now that we enter into the first week of games that matter?

Well, we’ve read all about that. Now, we get to see what comes true. Look out for our starter recommendations and the rest of your weekly prep this week as we begin fantasy football season with a bang.

And so begins our fantasy football addiction…

[You can check in with Norm's latest struggles with fantasy addiction over at Global Sports Fraternity.]

Guest Post: Three RBBCs to Target in Fantasy Football Drafts

This second guest post comes to us all the way across the pond from Ross Mooring of Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Teeth. This article is a follow up to his first guest post on three RBBCs to avoid in your drafts this season.

It’s now time to look at the running-back-by-committees (RBBC) that fantasy owners should try to monopolize in drafts this year. In most cases, fantasy players should study RBBC situations and draft only the favorites to receive the most carries when the time is right, but some teams possess running backs who collectively are undervalued or that, when drafted together, increase the value and reliability of those players.

Dallas Cowboys

A fit (well, fitter) Marion Barber is a surefire fantasy workhorse. One of the toughest running backs in the game, Barber is not only a threat on the goal line but also receiving out of the backfield. He will get every yard available.

MBIII has shockingly been falling to the beginning of the third round in 12-team drafts, mainly because of the presence of Felix Jones. This fall makes Barber an absolute steal given his propensity to carry the rock into the end zone on a weekly basis.

Jones still represents draft value at the very end of the sixth round, but here’s the clincher: the two of them offer different skill sets, don’t mutually deplete fantasy value very much and will be given enough touches to produce fantasy points.

Barber cannot carry the ball 25 times per game without breaking down while Jones is a threat in space, not in short-yardage situations. Take both with glee, and if you smell an injury, Tashard Choice won’t be waiver-wire fodder for long.

Indianapolis Colts

I’m making a joke, right? The Colts’ backfield, the very same backfield that struggled immensely in 2008, is one of the top three to target in 2009? Yes, it is!

Last year, not only did Joseph Addai have injury problems, but so did three of his offensive linemen and Peyton Manning. All have returned to good health this season. One must remember that Indianapolis is an offensive machine — always has been, always will be. At least while Manning is around…

Between Addai and rookie Donald Brown, we either have one back who will produce RB1 stat lines or two backs who will post RB2 and RB3 numbers. At the very worst, drafting both guarantees you will have insurance against an Addai injury.

You can wait on taking a second back through the first three or even four rounds — yes, Addai has been falling that far (ADP: 5.08!) — and secure the most undervalued RBBC in all of football in the sixth or seventh round.

Just make sure you don’t get arrested for robbery at the end of the year.

San Diego Chargers

The word on the grapevine is that last year was an offensive hiccup for San Diego, not in terms of total output but in the fact that the Chargers succeeded by passing the football and not running it.

With an improved defense (Shawne Merriman single-handedly improves this unit), why not control the game by slowing it down on the ground and letting Philip Rivers air it out with play action when necessary?

With LaDainian Tomlinson hitting the big 3-0 and Darren Sproles not yet a seasoned pro, one could be forgiven for doubting them, but L.T. is a once-in-a-decade back. A single season of wear and tear is not going to bring him down. A pick in the latter half of the first round — anywhere after that is a steal — represents value.

The kicker is that Sproles, who is playing under a franchise tag, is not going until late in the eighth round. If you’re in the right draft slot, take them both and sleep well knowing you have guaranteed yourself some big production at running back.

And one more bonus RBBC…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Editor’s Note: Tampa Bay was originally the third team to target until recent news revealed the 2-2-1 split they plan to use with Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams. Take these words as you will now that we know this committee will be very divided...

Tampa Bay is one of a couple of backfields that will be drafted late, mainly because of the lack of standout names but also because the statistical ceiling isn’t quite as sexy as it is elsewhere.

Make no mistake, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham will consistently notch points for fantasy owners in 2009 — the former with the bulk of the carries and the latter with the bulk of the touchdowns.

The advantage of this RBBC is that Tampa Bay does not have much of a passing game to hang its hat on. Antonio Bryant is unpredictable and potentially unreliable, and the same could be said of Kellen Winslow and his health issues. On top of that, the quarterback situation is confusing, and there seems to be little reason for Raheem Morris to do anything but lean on the run.

Ward has been drafted right at the end of the fourth round (steal), and Graham has seen his number called as late as the end of the tenth round (bigger steal!).

Do you agree or disagree with Ross on these RBBCs to target? As always, the comments are yours. Read more of Ross’ writing at Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Teeth.

On the Wire: Week 16 Pickups and Playoff One-offs

If you’re still playing fantasy football, your roster should be locked up pretty tight. Why are you even reading this article?

For the sake of those of you with injuries and/or in need of a weekly sub to blow away your heavily favored opponent, I guess I can still give you a few names that might be out there on your wire if your league is just very, very silly.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints
Obviously, he should be owned in all leagues by now, especially after posting his high score last week, but he’s worth mentioning since he plays the Lions this week.

Make sure he’s not sitting on the wire when you go into your games tonight. Do it for me, okay? For me.

Cadillac Williams, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He’s gotten back on the wagon these last few weeks and done some damage. Can you trust him in the playoffs? I think he might be worth a spot fill here or there when you need him, but it’s very likely you can do better, Mr. Playoffs. Cadillac benefits a bit because he plays two teams who are done for the season these next two weeks, the Chargers and the Raiders.

If you’re in the kind of keeper league that only requires you to rank waiver wire grabs as a 10th round or later selections, it might also be a sneaky play to snag Caddy in anticipation of his role next season. Fully healthy, Cadillac should reclaim the starting role from Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn.

DeShaun Foster, RB San Francisco 49ers
Foster is only a factor if Frank Gore sits again this week, but how nice would it be to have a running back going against the Rams?

He might trump your starter if you have someone like Marion Barber, banged up and facing a rough Baltimore defense.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts
I don’t love him this week with Joseph Addai likely to return against Jacksonville on Thursday night, but he’s definitely the preferred back for the scoring. The Colts, they like the scoring.

P.J. Pope, RB Denver Broncos
Shanahan strikes again! [Evil laugh] I wouldn’t want to touch Pope this week, but you might pick him up just for the sake of preventing your opponent taking a chance with him … and beating you.

Pope does play the Bills, who are pretty much done for the season now, and almost any back can productive when defenses have to focus on stopping Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Jay Cutler.

Note that since I didn’t mention him, Tatum Bell will dominate as the leading rusher on Sunday while Pope gets only a handful of carries — such is the Broncos backfield.

Tarvaris Jackson, QB Minnesota Vikings
So here’s the deal. Tarvaris came back on the scene last week as a suspect play against the Cardinals and absolutely blew the game out of the water with four touchdowns. Not a lot of yardage on the day, but really, you should quit complaining.

This week, the little project quarterback that could faces the Atlanta Falcons, who are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt. Even with a weak secondary, the Falcons are probably going to step up to stop Jackson, but there’s always a chance…

Matt Schaub, QB Houston Texans
For a good while there, he was hurt. How many 300-yard games must he have before you take notice?

If Schaub is on your waiver wire, you need to have him on a roster. He gets the Raiders this week with the potential for rain, but if the skies are clear, Schaub could fill them with passes just as Matt Cassel did in Week 15 against the Raiders.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers
Second only to picking up a running back that plays the Rams is grabbing yourself a quarterback that plays the Rams.

Devin Hester, WR Chicago Bears
Did everyone in your league give up on him during that stretch of worthlessness? He’s been pretty productive lately since Kyle Orton’s return, so I wouldn’t call you names for playing him this week against the Packers. No, really, I promise.

He might be better than the guy you’ve been starting at WR2 or WR3 like an unreliable Lee Evans.

Deion Branch, WR Seattle Seahawks
Branch is another pickup/drop guy that’s been on and off teams all season.

If you find him “off” and in the free agent pool at the moment, you might want to at least plant him on a roster this weekend so that he doesn’t help your opponent’s team with some yardage or, heaven forbid, a score against the Jets.

For all other issues of replacement or swaps, ask and ye shall receive (in the comments).

On the Wire: Week 15 Pickups and Waiver Wire Grabs for Playoffs

Congrats, fools. If you’re still following pickups at this point in the season, you made the playoffs. I guess there are some of you out there who may be seeking out ways to beef up your keeper or dynasty team for next year but for the large majority of you, playoffs. Good work. I hope our posts helped you make a call at least once, maybe even twice, during your season.

Now that you’re here in the playoff circle and gloating profusely in front of all the less fortunate owners in your league, you probably don’t want to change much. I’ve been shifting the pickups posts to later in the week in large part because I don’t want people to immediately rush out and grab the “so hot right now” player. More than ever, it’s important that you make really informed choices about who you put on your roster and kick to the free agent pool.

The recs I have for this week are slim because you obviously have a good enough team to weather the playoff storm if you made it here. You don’t want to drop your studs for a fluke of a wide receiver. These guys are options if one of your backups is worthless or injured — or maybe if you lost Peyton Hillis, Joseph Addai or Frank Gore this week. If they’re still available on the waiver wire, they’re some of the only players I could see being able to provide good numbers for you in the playoffs.

Antonio Bryant, WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers — I still haven’t quite decided whether he is the Britney Spears to Jeff Garcia’s Kevin Federline, but Bryant had a huge, two-touchdown performance last Monday night. I’m not pegging him as a superstar because the Bucs like to run the ball all day, but Bryant has as good of matchups as anyone in the next two weeks — Atlanta and San Diego. Unfortunately, you might have to back off of him in Week 17 as he plays the Raiders and is likely to be covered by Nnamdi “Not Going to Catch Anything” Asomugha. Don’t trust him as more than a low-end WR2 or WR3, but Bryant could be worth a plug in the playoffs.

Davone Bess, WR Miami Dolphins — Yes, Bess makes for a strong WR3 start these next few weeks as the Dolphins face the 49ers, Chiefs and Jets. He’s been the top receiver on offense since the departure of Greg Camarillo, and he’s more reliable than Ted Ginn Jr. One can only hope that that reliability translates into his use in the red zone. I’d only trust him as a WR3, but with the juicy matchups, he could surprise up to the level of a quality WR2.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — The little Frenchmen looks to be blowing up much like his predecessor, Aaron Stecker, did on the Saints last season during the fantasy football playoffs. The Saints end the season with the Bears, Lions and Panthers, so there’s plenty of opportunity there for Thomas to succeed. Unfortunately, a sort of returning Reggie Bush and sort of suspended Deuce McAllister make it hard to know what the Saints will do in the running game. If there was one to start and hope for the best though, it’d be Pierre. Oui, oui. Thomas is a low-end RB2 this week against the Bears but should be one hell of a RB2 during Week 16 against the Lions.

DeShaun Foster, RB San Francisco 49ers — You thought Foster was a name you could forget? Well, for the most part, it is, but he’s also the backup to Frank Gore. If Gore sits out after being carted off with that ankle injury in Week 14, Foster would get the most carries at Miami. Now, a slower, veteran running back is not who you want to be starting against a strong run defense like Miami during your playoffs, but you might consider picking up Foster just in case he also gets the call in Week 16, against a St. Louis team is just thankful not to be the Lions. No recommendation for foster this week, but consider stashing him to keep him from the competition and for his potential in Week 16 if you don’t have a solid RB option that week.

Tashard Choice, RB Dallas Cowboys — There’s not an easy day in sight with the Giants and the Ravens coming into Big D these next two weeks. Choice would also suffer a drop in value if Marion Barber returned this week or next week, which is very likely. But, regardless of the matchups, if Choice can run that well against the Steelers, he shouldn’t be shut down by the Giants, Ravens or Eagles these next three weeks. Watch the news about Marion Barber before you burn a decent roster spot for him. Of course, if you own Marion Barber, you should already have choice on your roster. If you don’t, slap yourself and pick him up. For everyone else, take a long, hard look at your roster, and if someone on there won’t be starting for you in the playoffs, swap them out for choice. I’d recommend him as a low-end RB2 or flex with a great deal of upside.

Tatum Bell and Selvin Young, RB Denver Broncos — Now that Peyton Hillis is done for the season, Shanahan is down to Tatum Bell and Selvin Young. Young’s never fully returned from the hamstring injury he suffered earlier in the season, and I’d have my doubts about him moving forward. Tatum Bell is still the same ol’ Bell. Neither player jumps off the page, but their playoff schedule does — Carolina, Buffalo and San Diego. Even though the Broncos will continue to pass first, all these upcoming defenses are around the middle of the league and, besides San Diego, show more weakness against the run than the pass. While Young is obviously more talented, it’s hard to recommend him when he can’t seem to stay on the field long enough to score. I’d conservatively recommend picking up Tatum Bell first and plugging him in as a weak RB2 or flex play. Very weak.

Cadillac Williams (a.k.a. Carnell Williams), RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — A touchdown vulture who could see more carries as the season goes on or if Warrick Dunn suffers another injury? That’s potential. Make sure you own Caddy if you have Dunn right now. He may even be worth a start over a full-time stud with games against Atlanta, San Diego and Oakland. A Raiders team with nothing to play for in Week 17 could make for a very lucrative Week 17, but unless his situation changes, Caddy will remain a low RB2 or RB3/flex start. I’d rather have a guy that starts.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — He’s been a solid start since he replaced JTO, and as much as I liked JTO before he became “Mr. Turnover,” I like Shaun Hill more. Hill has one of the best schedules for any quarterback as he faces the Miami, St. Louis and Washington to end the season. Unlike many playoff-bound starters, he probably won’t see a single sit during these last few weeks either. Expect a hard-fought and less-than-explosive game this week against the sack-happy Dolphins to be followed by a huge day at St. Louis in Week 16. If you need him in Week 17, he’s likely to be facing a Washington squad that’s out of the playoffs and done caring about it.

Seneca Wallace, QB Seattle Seahawks — Wallace has the potential to put up some numbers against the Rams, Jets and Cardinals these next three weeks. My gut is telling me that Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t get rushed back into the lineup with the season over and his back pain. As long as Deion Branch, who should also be owned in most leagues by now, is on the field, Wallace has potential as a sneaky play for a couple of touchdowns and 200+ yards. Wallace is a low, low, low-end start simply because he’s as likely to bust as bang, but if you need a quarterback during the playoffs, like slapping yourself to feel alive or have faith that a desperation play will save you, go for it. (As always, if you can’t decide whether to start Wallace over your stud/starter, you can always comment or contact us. There are certain starters that I would rank Wallace above these next three weeks.)

Steve Heiden, TE Cleveland Browns — While he won’t be spectacular, Ken Dorsey is definitely going to need his help if Dorsey survives the next three weeks. As long as he doesn’t spend all his time blocking, I like Heiden’s chances for a solid handful of points. If you made it to the playoffs, I suspect that you already have a decent tight end on your roster unless you are unfortunate enough to be a Kellen Winslow owner like me. Heiden is a low-end starting option against the Eagles, who have issues covering tight ends, and the Bengals, but a terrible option in Week 17 against the Steelers.

Indianapolis Colts D/ST — The Colts defense has Bob Sanders back, which always raises their stock, but they also have one of the easiest playoffs schedules out there as long as you finish in Week 16, not Week 17. In Week 15, they face the Lions. In Week 16, they face a very stick-a-fork-in-them Jaguars squad. In Week 17, the Titans actually pose a challenge, but at least you know that the Colts offense will be fired up for that one. A defense focusing on strong cornerbacks is always a nice thing to have on your fantasy squad, but the Colts should be especially good these next two weeks after coming off two straight 15+ point fantasy weeks. They are a must start defense these next two weeks.

Droppables: Anyone you won’t start in the next three weeks. Purge away unless you’re in a dynasty/keeper league.

On the Wire: Week 13 Pickups and Waiver Wire Reserves for the Playoffs

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving, fools!

This week, with playoffs right around the corner, you probably don’t need a lot of players to solidify your lineup. If you are looking for gems, go digging through our old waiver wire posts from this season.

Still, a few guys just became relevant or might become relevant in the next few weeks as depth for your playoff bench.

By now, you probably either have a good team or a bunch of terribles. As you head into the playoffs, you’ll want to trim the fat. Drop players that you are never going to start after Week 13 and handcuff your studs with their backups or a comparable stud/starter if you can get your hands on one.

After you’ve done all that, if you still have room to pick up a few shot-in-the-dark playoff hopefuls, here’s a few guys to look at adding. For the sake of our categories (Worth Claiming, Ones to Watch, Ignoring), consider all of these guys ‘Worth Claiming’ if you have the room on your roster.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — Hill’s still available in the majority of leagues, which is surprising considering that he is a Mike Martz quarterback on a team that tends to fall behind in games. Unlike JTO, he’s getting rid of the ball quickly and playing smart football. With Miami and St. Louis at the end of his playoff schedule, it’s very likely that he will outperform your current backup QB.

Trent Edwards, QB Buffalo Bills — Edwards isn’t quite done yet. While he’s had a rough patch the last several games, he found his stride against the Chiefs and had his first multi-touchdown performance this season. As long as the weather of the frigid northern tundra allows, he should return to his consistent performance from earlier in the season. Just ignore him during that Jets matchup in Week 15.

Antonio Pittman and Kenneth Darby, RB St. Louis Rams – While neither Pittman nor Darby has won over our hearts just yet, they’ve filled in admirably in place of an injured Steven Jackson for a struggling Rams squad. Whether Jackson ever makes it back to 100 percent or not, there’s no reason for the Rams to put him back out on the field. The Rams’ season is done. If Jackson sits it out the rest of the way, Pittman could be in line for decent weeks in Week 15 against Seattle and Week 16 against San Francisco, and if Darby continues to outperform Pittman, it could be Darby getting the carries in those games. They are depth options at best, but if you needed them in a pinch, it would be nice to have them on your roster.

LeRon McClain, RB Baltimore Ravens — Does anyone know what is going on in Baltimore these days? I think the running backs coach is actually just a coin flip — but not a regular coin, one of those “Two Face” style coins from Batman with a gimpy running back on one side, a fatty fullback on the other and a tiny rookie engraved around the edge. Baltimore will have to play tough down the stretch, and if McClain doesn’t end up doing that tough running, maybe he’ll at least vulture a few touchdowns.

Maurice Morris, RB Seattle Seahawks — I’ve liked Morris better that Julius Jones all season, and Morris has made his case for the starting job since returning from injury. Unfortunately, his fantasy playoff schedule is atrocious, but he does have St. Louis in Week 15.

Cadillac Williams, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Warrick Dunn will need someone to give him a breather down the stretch, and Williams seems to have recovered well enough to take some carries this season. B.J. Askew and Cadillac will share the rest of Dunn’s load. No games pop off the schedule except for the Saints this week and the Falcons in Week 15, but as much as Tampa Bay likes to run the ball, it’s hard not to give Caddy a chance.

Domenik Hixon, WR New York Giants — I like Hixon better than Plaxico Burress at this point, and he’s playing this week, unlike Plax. Hixon has the talent to blow some defenses up, but with no easy games left and a running game that isn’t slowed by anyone, he’s a risky option to end the season.

Davone Bess, WR Miami Dolphins — While mostly a return man, Bess now finds himself starting with Greg Camarillo down for the season. Miami has one of the softest schedules to end the year with the Rams, 49ers and Chiefs. Watch him this week against the Rams to see how effective he is before you pull the trigger unless you are really hurting for another receiver.

Josh Reed, WR Buffalo Bills — A possession receiver in the snowy mess of Buffalo could prove valuable down the stretch, especially if you are in a PPR league and just lost someone like Greg Camarillo. Don’t expect a touchdown every week. It might be another 20+ games before that happens again.

Jay Feely, K New York Jets — Feely’s been on a hot streak the last few weeks, and now that the Jets have a strategy for winning games revolving around defense and running the football, Feely could be in line to sweep up a lot of drives that don’t make it to the red zone.

Neil Rackers, K Arizona Cardinals — It never hurts to have a kicker in a high-powered offense. Overlooking his poor week against Philly, the Arizona offense is hard to keep quiet, and he’ll have his chances to put points on the board.

Rian Lindell, K Buffalo Bills — Despite weather concerns, Lindell has been one of the top-rated kickers in the last several weeks. He’s likely to keep getting his chances, even after the weather gets bad. Let’s hope his aim doesn’t go wide right.

Who you can drop: Cedric Benson, Deuce McAllister, Derek Anderson, Carson Palmer and David Carr … always David Carr.

On the Wire: Week 11 Pickups and Waiver Wire Veterans from Week 10

By now, your season may be over, but there’s no reason to start cutting players like the Raiders unless they are still underperforming. Now is the time to grab up all those players the teams that beat up on you want to cripple them for their playoff run! That’s right. Bitterness breeds competition.

Of course, if you are in a keeper or dynasty league, you should be a little more responsible, but for the re-drafters out there, let the bitter waves of hate flow.

Here’s a few guys that might help you in the playoffs or help you assist you in hoarding talent from your worthy adversaries.

Worth Claiming

Tyler Thigpen, QB Kansas City Chiefs — Of all the backup quarterbacks starting this season, Thiggy might be the best of the bunch. He’s worth mentioning again. He has six touchdowns and 710 yards in his last three starts, and the Chiefs are running a large majority of plays from the shotgun. Is this still a running team?

Brady Quinn, QB Cleveland Browns — I’ve also mentioned Quinn previously, but if you passed on him in his first start, he proved himself with two touchdowns and no turnovers in his first start last Thursday. I don’t think he’ll win games for you down the stretch with a touch Week 13-15 schedule, but his efficient passing should beef up Kellen Winslow’s stats and keep him in the middle of the road as a fantasy quarterback.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — To prevent you from having to go back to last week’s “On the Wire,” we’ll just complete the trifecta of quarterback options after Week 10. Hill had two touchdowns, a pair of interceptions, a fumble and 217 passing yards in this debut, but his turnovers were not as bad as they seem. His two interceptions came when the Arizona defense intensified in fourth quarter at home, and the fumble was caused by a bad snap that was knocked loose by a bumbling guard behind the line. His ability to avoid sacks and make plays will keep him fantasy-worthy in the upcoming games in which the 49ers will have to pass to stay competitive.

Ladell Betts, Shaun Alexander and Rock Cartwright, RB Washington Redskins — Don’t hate me now if you didn’t trade away Portis when I suggested he was an injury risk. It sounds like Clinton Portis has a painful MCL tear that is preventing him from even straightening his leg, so expect him to be limited or out against the Cowboys. Betts would be the favorite to fill in for Port, but he’s been banged up as well and might not be good enough to return despite what Jim Zorn is saying. If that were the case, Shaun Alexander and Rock Cartwright would probably share the carries. If you’re a Portis owner, I’d snag Betts just to be cautious moving forward.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — “Law Firm” has overtaken the power back role in Sammy Morris’ absence with 100+ yards and a score in Week 10, and even with LaMont Jordan threatening to return, I see him having some flex value until Morris is ready to get back on the field. Add him if you need depth at running back, but you might not start him until fantasy playoffs (Jets, Dolphins, Steelers in next three weeks).

Justin Fargas and Michael Bush, RB Oakland Raiders — So Fargas is not completely dead, but the Raiders failing offense is going to limit his ceiling. He had 80+ yards in a garbage game against Carolina. Michael Bush has about the same value as the No. 2 back and getting about the same amount of yardage. Both of them make decent flex plays or low-end No. 2 options against weaker run defenses until Darren McFadden returns from injury.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — Riding the Thigpen train to success, we can safely say that Bradley is a legitimate No. 2 receiver beside Dwayne Bowe. He had nine catches for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers this past week. He may be the third read behind Bowe and Tony Gonzalez, but he has a touchdown in each of his last three games, even if he did throw one of them. The schedule looking forward makes him very claim-worthy (Saints, Bills, Raiders, Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins).

Peyton Hillis and Tatum Bell, RB Denver Broncos — If you were, heaven forbid, starting a Denver running back, these two are the flavors of the week. Bell has just been signed but knows the system, and Hillis had 24 yards after Ryan Torain was injured Thursday night. No one knows how ol’ leather-faced Shanahan is going to handle this one, but I’d rather have Hillis than Bell at the moment because of his versatility.

Cadillac Williams, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Bucs are excited about Williams’ return, and they should be. Both Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn are still licking wounds. If you can afford the bench room to hold on to him for this week against the Vikings, Williams is worth claiming to see how he factors into the Bucs’ running game. Only a Week 14 Panthers matchup stands in the way of a return to fantasy relevance in the final games of this season. (Note for the fantasy n00bs: “Cadillac” is also known as Carnell Williams.)

Kevin Boss, TE New York Giants — A touchdown in each of his last three games is enough for me to be sold on the Shockey filler. Boss should have even had two touchdowns if he had caught the ball. Obviously, Manning is looking for him in the red zone, so you should, too.

Matt Spaeth, TE Pittsburgh Steelers — He’s merely a fill for an injured Heath Miller, but the Steelers haven’t been putting enough emphasis on utilizing the tight end position this season. This week gives him some added value as the Steelers face the tight-end-friendly Chargers, but I only endorse him as a one-week play or a sleeper grab.

Dustin Keller, TE New York Jets — Keller was hot to start the season and then fell off the map. If you held on to him, he finally had his biggest game of the season with six catches, 100+ yards and a score. We know how Brett Favre likes to use the tight ends, so a hot streak after this game wouldn’t surprise me.

Guys you probably should have already picked up:

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons — He’s doing well in just his first year and has a great schedule for passing to end the season.

Kevin Smith, RB Detroit Lions — Despite Rudi Johnson’s brief interruption, Kevin Smith is still the back you want from Detroit, even if the schedule is garbage for rushing until the fantasy playoffs. He collected 96 yards and a score against the Jaguars.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins — Williams was actually the better back with 100+ yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks, but most of his yardage came off one big play run out of the Wildcat formation with Ronnie Brown. He’ll continue to see his fair share of looks in the easy matchups to come.

Dominic Rhodes, RB Indianapolis Colts — It appears that the Colts will continue to give Rhodes carries even with Joseph Addai in the lineup. He’s got some depth and flex value with the easy running matchups left on the Colts schedule. If it’s true that Addai reaggravated his injury, Rhodes could be huge in the coming weeks.

Lance Moore, WR New Orleans Saints — The third-year receiver continues to catches even with the return of Marques Colston and had 76 yards and a score against Atlanta this past week.

Malcom Floyd, WR San Diego Chargers — The backup that won’t go away! Floyd has had his days while Chris Chambers is out with injury. If Chambers remains out, he could be a favorite long-ball target for Philip Rivers (after the pass-hating Steelers this week, of course).

Josh Morgan, WR San Francisco 49ers — He got his second touchdown and some job security Monday night and is likely to see a lot of looks come his way as the 49ers enter a favorable passing schedule.

Ones to Watch

Kerry Collins, QB Tennessee Titans — The Titans’ strength is in the running game, but they proved that they could throw the ball as well with Collins in Week 10. If teams can stop the run like the Bears did, Collins is capable of having fantasy-worthy stats, and it’s likely that will happen against the Jets and possibly the Jags in the next two weeks. I’d rather have someone more dependable like Thigpen or Shaun Hill though.

Justin Gage and Brandon Jones, WR Tennessee Titans — Jones and Gage are completely dependent upon Collins, but they could be worth desperation grabs if you have no depth at wide receiver. Gage is the more reliable option, but Bo Scaife, as a tight end, still gets most of the receptions on this team.

Jason Hill, WR San Francisco 49ers — When backup quarterbacks get promoted to the starting squad, they don’t forget the second-string receivers they worked out with at the beginning of the year. Enter Jason Hill, who had seven catches for 84 yards on Monday night against the Cardinals and came just short of a touchdown. He’s more of a possession guy, but he’s definitely got chemistry with the new quarterback.

Mark Clayton, WR Baltimore Ravens — If Derrick Mason missed time, Clayton could step up into his shoes as a productive receiver for Joe Flacco.

Jerry Porter, WR Jacksonville Jaguars — Porter has his first touchdown in Week 10 and could stand to gain when Matt Jones is suspended, but is that every going to happen? He’ll have to prove he’s coming along in this offense in future weeks to be worthy of an add.

Shaun McDonald, WR Detroit Lions — McDonald inherited the starting role opposite Calvin Johnson when Roy Williams was traded, but it’s hard to do much with it without a reliable quarterback. He’s had his ups and downs. If the Lions get the passing game in order, McDonald could see more action since we know the Lions will be behind in the tough matchups to come.

Ignoring

Todd Heap, TE Baltimore Ravens — His two touchdowns both came in the fourth quarter of a blowout, and one even came from the backup quarterback, Troy Smith. I don’t rely on a guy like Heap unless he shows consistency, and this game was the only fantasy-worthy one he’s had all season. Do it again, you heap of…

Droppables

Don’t flush all your talent, but if you’re looking to trim the fat on your team, these guys might not be waiting on for you. Of course, you can always run drops by me in the comments if you can’t make the call between a new waiver wire gem and your current benchwarmer.

Jeremy Shockey, TE New Orleans Saints — Brees is not relying on Shockey when they need a play as long as Billy Miller is around, and Shockey doesn’t even look like the best tight end of his team. He can’t stay healthy, and unless you have no need at any other position, I wouldn’t even carry him as a backup tight end at this point.

Felix Jones, RB Dallas Cowboys — He’s about to return from his hamstring injury, but he’s also one of those players who relies on the big play to produce in fantasy. If you have managed without him, I doubt you’ll need him with only two more starts that look promising (49ers, Seahawks).

Free agents developing destinations: Foster, Berrian, Muhammad [NFL Rumors]

Desmond Clark got a two-year extension with Chicago through 2010. If you were holding out for Greg Olsen to become the elite player he is touted to become at tight end, don’t count on him breaking out next year. It looks like he will share playing time with Clark awhile longer–a long while longer.

Who’d like to see a wide receiver tandem of Braylon Edwards and Bernard Berrian? For one, I would just to hear all the announcers stumble over Braylon and Berrian in the same sentence. Apparently, the Cleveland Browns agree. The Browns are keeping their eye on Berrian. If he makes the move to Cleveland, his fantasy value might go up. With Berrian’s deep threat added to Edward’s high-scoring ability, the Browns could really do some damage on offense. Sorry, Joe.

DeShaun Foster might find a home in Tampa Bay–unless they would rather have Javon Walker. So maybe Cadillac Williams won’t be ready to go for 2008? It looks like Earnest Graham will be starting once again down in Tampa, and they might want to work Foster in for some carries in a back up role. Foster’s value would be small if he goes there, but hopefully, he doesn’t cut into Graham’s solid production.

Speaking of released vets, Muhsin Muhammad has been linked to both the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers. The latest reports put him close to signing a deal with the Panthers. It might not be totally sealed yet because rumor has it that he wants a “gloves off” clause barring David Carr from quarterbacking.

Word from the Raider camp is that Michael Huff, formerly of the University of Texas, is on the trading block. He hasn’t impressed the Raiders coaches with his play on stopping the pass or the run. If he stays, he is likely changing positions to free safety. He could go on the cheap to another team hurting for help, but time will tell whether his level of play steps up and contributes some fantasy value to a defense.

If Jeff Wilkins held it down for you at kicker, you might be looking for a new trusty leg next season. Wilkins is pulling a Brett Favre this offseason while evaluating a nagging leg injury. He could leave if he doesn’t feel like he get it done in 2008.

The San Diego Chargers fortified their linebacking core by signing veteran Derek Smith. He is on the decline after being replaced by Patrick Willis on the 49ers defense, but he could still add depth and experience to the Chargers linebacking group. The Chargers defense was good already, so this move does nothing more than keep its value high.