A Fool and His Money in Week 17

It’s craziness in Week 17. Will the playoff teams even bother to start their studs? Will the backups be decent when they get in there?

We can attempt to negotiate through the darkness of the last week of the season, but in reality, we’ll just be happy to be at .500 for the season with this week’s picks.

Oakland Raiders at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Raiders (+13) over BUCS
Crazy things happen in the final week of the regular season. If we knew which Oakland team was going to show up, 13 points would be perfect. Will it be the one that has a decent defense and running game or the team that just plain sucks all around?

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

STEELERS (-10.5) over Browns
Normally, I would expect starters to rest for a team that has secured a bye and has nothing to play for, but Mike Tomlin insists that the Steelers are “playing to win.” If that’s truly the case, I expect the Steelers to easily win by double digits.

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

Titans (-3) over COLTS
Both of these teams have already secured their playoff seeds. The Colts have not been particularly good at home this year, and Jeff Fisher says the Titans will play to win while Tony Dungy has been mum on the subject. Even if they both tried all out to win, I still like the Titans by a field goal in this one.

St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons

Rams (+14.5) over FALCONS
I loved picking the Falcons this year, especially when they were getting points and playing teams with inferior records. But alas, it appears those days are gone. I can’t refuse taking 14.5 points in an NFL game.

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

Patriots (-6.5) over BILLS $
The Patriots are looking good right now, and there is playoff spot on the line. What does that mean? It means Belichick pulls no punches and rips into the Bills. I hope the Patriots make the playoffs over Miami because they are playing a lot better right now than they were earlier in the season.

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers

Lions (+10) over PACKERS
This is a pity pick for the woeful Lions. This is your last chance to avoid history. Good luck.

Chicago Bears at Houston Texans

TEXANS (-2.5) over Bears
The Texans get on a nice little roll, and then what happens? They lose by double digits to the Raiders. I honestly believe this Texans team just doesn’t know how to be winners as an organization or as a team. They are full of players who weren’t dynamic winners or leaders in college. If only they had drafted Vince Young … I will never forgive them for this mistake.

Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals

Chiefs (+3) over BENGALS
Watch out, the Bengals are on a winning streak! Haha, that just sounds funny. I’m taking the Chiefs because they have looked decent every week recently and because Tony Gonzalez helped lead my fantasy team to the championship! Suck on that, Jacob!

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings

VIKINGS (+6.5) over Giants
If the Giants try, they will wipe the floor with this Vikings team, but I don’t think they are going to try very hard. The Vikings are at home with playoffs beginning a week early for them. I should at least take them with the points.

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

SAINTS (+3) over Panthers
The NFC South teams are just plain sick at home, and I don’t see the Panthers being particularly motivated after losing the No. 1 seed in overtime last week.

Washington Redskins at San Francisco 49ers

Redskins (-3) over 49ERS
I don’t care about this game at all. I’ve already written too much.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens

RAVENS (-12.5) over Jaguars
I don’t like giving away so many points, but I like this Ravens team. I think the Ravens will rise under pressure with a playoff berth on the line.

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

CARDINALS (-6) over Seahawks
Do you smell that? That is the Cardinals stinking up the joint the past three weeks. They better get their mojo going in a hurry if they don’t want to be a sacrificial lamb in the first round of the playoffs. Luckily, playing the Seahawks at home can inspire a lot of false confidence.

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

EAGLES (-1.5) over Cowboys
This is purely a pick out of hate. I hate the Cowboys. I’m going to ignore the fact that the Eagles lost to the Redskins last week and only scored three points.

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

JETS (-2.5) over Dolphins
This will be one of the most intriguing games of the week. The Jets have looked horrible the past four weeks and went 1-3 in that span. Brett Favre did somehow get a Pro Bowl spot over a much more worthy Philip Rivers, so maybe he’ll prove why in this game. This week would also make for a nice revenge game from Pennington if he can come into the Meadowlands and take a playoff spot right in front of his former team.

Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers

CHARGERS (-8.5) over Broncos
Wow. Who would have seen the Chargers coming back to win the division? A Chargers-Colts rematch in the first round would be insane, but first, they have to get past the floundering Broncos. I’m guessing the Chargers dominate this game right from the beginning. Philip Rivers is the man. I traded Donovan McNabb and Marques Colston to get him in my fantasy league five or six weeks ago, and it worked out brilliantly. He gave me 35 points in my championship, and I pulled off an upset to win for our traveling trophy. My first three picks next year will be Philip Rivers, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. I’m not joking either; those guys are my heroes.

Current Standings after Week 16:

Nick: 116-113-6
Nick’s Locks: 9-9-1

A Fool and His Money in Week 16

Nick’s picking solo once again this week as everything starts to get sketchy here at the end of the season.

Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys

Ravens (+4) over COWBOYS
This game could decide who gets into the playoffs. It’s tough to pick against Dallas at home, but I do think the Ravens are the better team and more deserving of a playoff spot.

Jacob’s Note: Booooooooooooooooooooooo.

New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions

LIONS (+7) over Saints
I personally think it’s just as hard to go winless as it is to go undefeated. After all, we’ve only had one undefeated team and no winless teams in the history of the NFL. If the Lions are going to pull it off, this is the week.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans

TITANS (+2) over Steelers
It’s insulting to have the best record in the league and then be an underdog at home. I think the Titans will use that as motivation and secure home field advantage despite all the distractions.

San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

49ers (-5.5) over RAMS $
Are you kidding me? The 49ers have been competitive the past few weeks, and the Rams have been, well, the Rams. I’m picking this game as a lock because the Rams already wish this season was over.

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns

Bengals (+3) over BROWNS
I don’t know which third-string quarterback I should put my money on, so I’m just going to take the points in this game nobody outside of Ohio cares about.

Miami Browns at Kansas City Chiefs

Dolphins (-3.5) over CHIEFS
The Dolphins need this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. Few things spur more than necessity, so I’m going to take Chad Pennington and the Dolphins.

Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots

Cardinals (+8) over PATRIOTS
At some point the Cardinals have to get fed up with the fact that nobody takes them as a serious playoff threat. Beating the Patriots in Foxborough is a good way to earn respect.

San Diego Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chargers (+3.5) over BUCS
Chadam likes the Bucs. I do not. I’m saying they choke.

Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders

Texans (-7) over RAIDERS
If the Texans hadn’t wasted the first five games of the season, they might actually be a playoff threat right now. Seriously, they are on a decent winning streak with an offense that can put up some serious points. The Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub connection looks to be a serious combo entering next season.

New York Jets at Seattle Seahawks

Jets (-3.5) over SEAHAWKS $
I sincerely hope the Seahawks upset the Jets, but I just can’t see that happening. Then again, I didn’t see the Broncos thrashing the Jets at home a few weeks ago.

Buffalo Bills at Denver Broncos

BRONCOS (-6.5) over Bills
I’m choosing the Broncos just because I’m writing this in Colorado right now. It would be disrespectful to the locals if I didn’t pick the hometown team.

Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings

Falcons (+3) over VIKINGS
This one is another game that has major playoff implications. I’m honestly not sure who to choose, so I’m going with the points. I am also rooting for the Falcons on a personal level and against any team with O-who connections.

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins

Eagles (-5) over REDSKINS
Wow, have the Redskins folded, but let’s give a slow clap and standing ovation for Brian Westbrook. Jacob needed lower than his projected fantasy points last week to beat me in fantasy football. But instead skill, talent and overall superior football knowledge won out and led to my victory. Thanks again, Brian Westbrook.

Jacob’s Note: And by skill, talent and overall superior football knowledge, Nick means luck and deals with the Devil. I have proof.

Carolina Panthers at New York Giants

GIANTS (-3) over Panthers
I would not want to play the Panthers at home. I’m not so threatened by them on the road. Super Bowl champions know how to deal with high pressure situations.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Packers (+4) over BEARS
The Packers are out of playoff contention, but what better way to go out than ruining the playoff hopes of a rival in front of their fans? Rodgers needs to finish well so that we don’t have to hear more Favre/Rodgers comparisons than we have to this offseason.

Week 13 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

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

Hot Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble Boys

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Shoulders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foolish Thoughts on Week 12: What happened to my weekend

As you might have guessed, my weekend didn’t quite go as planned. You see, I got a new day job in Dallas — and no, it’s not as backup quarterback for the Cowboys despite the fact that Brad Johnson didn’t put up much of a fight.

If you’d rather skip the story and get straight to this week’s brief thoughts on fantasy football, click here to jump straight to the fantasy football content.

This weekend was supposed to be the big move. I had my things packed and ready to go, a UHAUL truck was reserved and the family was coming down to assist. As of Friday night, my plan was to load up the truck Saturday afternoon, make my Fools posts Saturday night for Week 12 and drive back Sunday morning with time to watch the Colts-Chargers game.

The rest of the games, sadly, would have to be watched as replays and on the DVR since every method I researched to watch live NFL football while driving a big UHAUL truck down the highway seemed too dangerous to do.

There was a slight detour in the plan when my mother called to tell me that my father wasn’t coming down to help me move as she drove down Saturday morning. He was still feeling a little under the weather, but I still thought the plan was going to work out. No big deal.

Of course, this backup plan now meant that I would be moving furniture with an aunt, my mother and my sister.

The plan was still on at this point to stay the night in Austin before departing for the Big D.

But then, to borrow a phrase from VH1′s Behind the Music, it all came crashing down … dun dun dun

As we were crashing out to sleep after loading most of the truck, my mom called my dad to find out that his condition has worsened. He wasn’t feeling good at all, and, in fact, he probably needed to head up to the emergency room on this late Saturday night to see a doctor.

My mother got packed up in a hurry, coordinated a team of relatives from both sides of the family to take my father to the emergency room and took off with my aunt to head back to Dallas in my aunt’s car just before midnight, and I was left to load the rest of the truck with my sister and take off a bit after them in the UHAUL for a caffeine-fueled, four-hour trip to Dallas.

I was tired, sweating out of every pore and pretty much ready to turn in when the plan got changed, so needless to say, the changed plan was looking pretty hopeless. Not only did I have to load the truck and take off to drive back, but I had to leave my car behind so that my sister and I could ride together and keep each other awake.

After loading the truck with my couch and bed, I purchased some Rockstar and some Mountain Dew, which I normally avoid, and we headed for Dallas to find out what was going on with my father.

Fortunately for my sister and me, I didn’t even come close to sleepy with some coffee-in-a-can Rockstar in my stomach and the butt-like aftertaste in my mouth. Pouring on the Mountain Dew and a big cup of highly-caffeinated truck stop coffee pretty much sealed the deal.

That coffee could wake the dead.

A little after 5 a.m. we finally got home, and I somehow managed to post a 6 a.m. start or sit for Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders before going into a coma Sunday. I felt like Pacman Jones returning from a night of making it rain.

(My dad was under a doctor’s care and going to be okay at this point, so don’t think I was blogging from the emergency room.)

With the moving, the sleep deprivation, starting a new job, a dad in the hospital and the caffeine withdrawals the last few days, I saw my weekend get zapped right out of my hands.

Despite the craziness, one good thing did come out of this weekend: at least I didn’t have to watch some of the Week 12 games like you guys did.

Unfortunately, following up on the games after the any given weekend festivities doesn’t make them much better.

Jay Cutler and Donovan McNabb are on my “don’t touch” list — right beside hot stoves and hookers. Cutler could easily come back strong, but I’m shaky about rolling into the playoffs with either. Tough games ahead could spell disaster. The Broncos look deflated, and the Eagles look like they are just trying to tie now that they realized they can do that.

It might be time to look at Shaun Hill, Tyler Thigpen or Chad Pennington if you haven’t already.

Brian Westbrook isn’t weathering the chunky, brown storm in Philly any better than McNabb. His performances the last few weeks clearly show he’s not healthy. I own him in one league, but I’ll be making contingency plans for him.

There are very few fantasy football rosters I would expect to see Deuce McAllister on after last week. He’s not getting the carries he used to get, and he’s bound to be suspended to end the season.

Even though he resurged this week, I still think Philip Rivers is a complete fantasy-fake douche. He’s going to fall flat at least once during Weeks 14-16 like he did in Week 11. A mistake there would cost you your playoffs. That’s it. He’s added to the list.

It was bound to happen, Tennessee fans. Eventually, some team was going to make the Titans receivers look like the players we thought they were.

The Jets had the perfect mix with a defensive line that could contain the run, and a group of corners that could play man-to-man on all the passing options, including Bo Scaife.

Kerry Collins didn’t have a chance to make a play, and a team like that isn’t going to make it far in the playoffs. Sorry, Titans. If they weren’t playing the Lions this weekend, I might dare to say they would start a downward spiral. How funny would it be if a deflated Titans team lost to the Lions to become the Lions’ first victory of the season?

Brett Favre has the Jets on pace for the playoffs, and it seems like he’s got that spark in the passing game. I still think the Jets will remain Thomas Jones’ team. Jones has some great matchups to end the season, which makes me wonder whether the Jets will even attempt to throw the ball.

Matt Cassel might be the real thing. He’s certainly better than Brad Johnson, but I have to believe he’s not a game-changing quarterback. Otherwise, why would he ride the bench since high school?

Will the Patriots pay for him? I doubt it, but you never know. If a team like Kansas City offers him a nice contract, he’s likely to take it for a starting job, but I still think he’s benefiting from a great situation. Without Wes Welker and Randy Moss making plays for him, Cassel’s not going to look nearly as Brady-like, even in a Pats uniform.

Welcome back to Darren McFadden and Terrell Owens. Nice to have you for the playoffs.

More impressions from the weekend? At this point, I think there’s a good feel for everyone you are starting, but post up a chat topic in the comments if you’d like to prognosticate about your chances in the fantasy playoffs.

A Fool and His Money in Week 9

Fantasy Football Fools’ Nick and Chadam pick the NFL spreads each week in “A Fool and His Money.” You don’t have to bet with them; in fact, it might be better for your wallet if you don’t. But for fantasy football players, Nick and Chadam provide a look inside the matchups from Vegas’ perspective and thoughts on which games and players will be critical in bringing home a win.

This week, we’re debuting “A Fool and His Money” in a slightly different format with a consensus opinion rather than the two versus takes. Tell us what you think, and feel free to comment.

Are there morals in fantasy football?

Think about it. Is it okay to pick a player you hate to be on your fantasy team? Is it okay to take advantage of lesser players in your league and swindle them in unfair trades?

And I don’t mean trades where you feel you are getting an advantage. I mean straight swindling people like Peyton Manning for J.T. O’Sullivan.

I have fantasy morals, and I must admit that I violated them last night during my fantasy basketball draft.

I hate T-Mac and the Rockets and have serious disdain for Yao Ming. The reasons are my own, yet I drafted them last night because, at the time, they were steals.

This morning, I feel nauseous and wrought with guilt. Ed. Note: Morning sickness?

I am currently trying to trade them both because I can’t handle it. I love fantasy sports, but I don’t want to have to trade my soul and the enjoyment of rooting for (or against) teams to get a few extra points each week. My advice is not to make the same mistake I did.

I also think taking advantage of the less interested and less knowledgeable players in a league is completely garbage — not because the weaker trade partner is getting shafted but because it hurts everyone else in the league.

Some people may pretend the trades are legit or that they deserve the advantage because they took the initiative to pull it off. Bullshit.

You cheapen the game when that happens and institute a degree of doubt into who the true contenders and champions are. Keep the sport pure, and don’t do this legalized form of cheating.

Now, to the picks!

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Ravens (+1.5) over BROWNS
Nick Takes: BROWNS (-1.5) over Ravens

In taking the Browns, Nick says: I’ve been treading water the last few weeks to stay above .500. Last week was particularly rough when I lost two picks by 0.5 points that could have put me at 9-5. I went 7-7, and Chadam is catching back up to me. Cleveland’s defense has kept them in games recently, and I like them to win at home.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Kansas City Chiefs

Fools Take: Buccaneers (-8) over CHIEFS

Nick says: I correctly picked the Chiefs to keep it close last week, but the Bucs are going to come in angry after that disappointment in Dallas.

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: BILLS (-5) over Jets
Nick Takes: Jets (+5) over BILLS

In taking the Jets, Nick says: The Bills are going to start panicking soon. Watch out.

Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: RAMS (+3) over Cardinals
Nick Takes: Cardinals (-3) over RAMS

In taking the Cardinals, Nick says: The Cardinals looked respectable in defeat last week. Boldin was still a beast, even with all those screws in his jaw. Donnie Avery is starting to show why he was the first receiver drafted this year.

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

Fools Take: BEARS (-12.5) over Lions

Nick says: I like the Bears to win the NFC North. They’ve showed some major improvement this year on offense and their defense will only get better as the season gets colder.

Houston Texans at Minnesota Vikings

Fools Take: Texans (+4.5) over VIKINGS

Nick says: I like the Vikings to win, but the Texans have looked good the past two weekends. Maybe they can make it three in a row.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: BENGALS (+7) over Jaguars
Nick Takes: Jaguars (-7) over BENGALS

In taking the Jaguars, Nick says: Good teams probably look past the Bengals, and that’s when they will have their chance to prevent 0-16. Unfortunately, mediocre teams look forward to playing the Bengals and give them their full attention.

Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes: Dolphins (+3) over BRONCOS
Nick Takes: BRONCOS (-3) over Dolphins

In taking the Broncos, Nick says: I want to take an efficient Chad Pennington versus that Broncos defense, but I think Denver coming out of a bye week at home will be too much for the Dolphins.

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

Fools Take: GIANTS (-7.5) over Cowboys

Nick says: Shutting down the Bucs was nice, but the Cowboys defense will need to muster a lot more to slow down the Giants’ offensive attack.

Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks

Fools Take: Eagles (-7) over SEAHAWKS

Nick says: The Seahawks won’t look that good two games in a row. McNabb should go off seeing how I just traded him away in my fantasy league. That’s usually how those things work. On a similar note, expect big things from Marques Colston next week.

Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders

Fools Take: Falcons (-2.5) over RAIDERS

Nick says: Nothing against the Raiders except they suck, their owner sucks, their coach sucks and their fans suck. I also like the new duo of Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. A lot.

New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts

Fools Take: Patriots (+5.5) over COLTS

Nick says: Do the Colts need this one or what? If they do win, it will be because they escaped, not because they dominated.

Green Bay Packers at Tennessee Titans

Fools Take: TITANS (-5.5) over Packers

Nick says: I got this brilliant plan, ya see. DON’T PICK AGAINST THE TITANS!

Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins

SPLIT DECISION!
Chadam Takes:
REDSKINS (-1.5) over Steelers
Nick Takes: Steelers (+1.5) over REDSKINS

In taking the Steelers, Nick says: I like my Redskins, but the Steelers are too good to lose two in a row. If the Redskins had lost last week and the Steelers had won, I would probably switch my pick around.

Last Week:

Chadam: 9-5
Nick: 7-7

Current Standings after Week 8:

Chadam: 57-54-2
Nick: 59-52-2
Simmons: 60-51-3

Week 9 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

One of my fantasy football teams has done remarkably well through the first half of the season. After starting 5-0, I traded away some of my starters for underperforming stars that I believed would lead me to victory in the second half.

As of this week, I have assembled what I would call the Pro Bowl of fantasy teams. Surviving my bye weeks, this is my starting lineup for Week 9: QB Peyton Manning (but David Garrard might sneak in there); RBs Brian Westbrook, Matt Forte; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans; TE Kellen Winslow; D/ST Arizona Cardinals; K Matt Prater.

And that’s in a 14-team league. I’m projected to score 144.5 points this weekend by the sometimes conservative, sometimes drunk with power ESPN projections.

This should be a good weekend.

Hot Hands

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Lions — What? Orton is tied with Peyton Manning as the No. 10 fantasy quarterback right now, and he could finish as one of the top-six QBs? I feel sick. He plays the Lions this week and already posted his best performance of the season against them in Week 5 (300+ passing yards and two TDs). He could beat that. He’ll probably pass Peyton Manning, and then I’m probably going to punch myself in the face…twice.

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Broncos — You would think that I would hate recommending guys like Pennington, but to tell you the truth, I love it. I love saying a guy is worth a start when everyone hates on him 24/7. Pennington, in my opinion, is not a bad dude. This week, he gets to play “score the most points” with Jay Cutler, but Pennington gets to throw against a defense that can’t stop the run and will be missing Champ Bailey, the only person who really stops the pass. If Ted Ginn Jr. looks good again, I still won’t believe it’s not a fluke — maybe after Week 10.

Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars vs. Bengals — You have to start Jones-Drew in this one, but even Taylor might get back to his old ways against the Bengals weak rushing defense (28th in the NFL). Expect David Garrard to continue to use the pass more than the Jags did last season, which should open it up when Jones-Drew and Taylor run. Unless he breaks one, Taylor should get some good yardage, but he’s more a bubble/sleeper pick than Jones-Drew at this point.

Earnest Graham, RB Bucs vs. Chiefs — “My turn, my turn, my turn!” If Warrick Dunn can’t go again because of his back, Graham should have his best performance of the season. If that doesn’t leave you satisfied and smiling, you have no soul.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Broncos — Expect him to make up for that piss-poor performance against the Bills. The Dolphins coaches held him back, not the Bills defense. The ‘Wildcat’ will return, baby!

Kevin Walter, WR Texans vs. Vikings — The Vikings have a weak secondary, and Matt Schaub has been throwing the ball like a champ the last three weeks since returning from his illness. As long as Johnson is being shut down, Walter should reap the benefits of working against the abused, second corner of the Vikings secondary. Walter and Owen Daniels will have to substitute for a running game with short passes against the No. 2 rushing defense.

Donnie Avery, WR Rams vs. Cardinals — Maybe if Avery shotguns a beer, lights himself on fire and then blows through coverage to score from 40+ yards out, defensive coordinators will pay attention to him. For now, the Cardinals’ attention will be on Torry Holt, and Avery should impress in a home game against this weaker secondary.

John Carlson, TE Seahawks vs. Eagles — Carlson is the team’s leading receiver, and stopping the tight end has been a problem for Philly several times this season. Carlson should get back on pace after being forgotten in the stomping of the 49ers last week.

Bubble Boys

Peyton Manning, QB Colts vs. Patriots — Manning is on the bubble anytime he faces a well-put-together defense. While the Patriots aren’t quite that, they have been able to get to Manning even in his prime. Expect Belichick to try to take advantage of the tied-with-Kyle-Orton quarterback this week. He’ll produce even in a loss — as he did against the Titans — but if you have better, less bucketheaded options…

Willis McGahee, RB Ravens vs. Browns — The Browns run defense has stopped the run when they were determined to do so (allowing 53 yards rushing for Jacksonville last week), but they still rank as one of the worst run defenses out there, despite using unorthodox methods like all those eye pokes they gave McGahee when they faced the Ravens in Week 3. McGahee has looked much better since coming off the injury report, but rookie Ray Rice is still on his heels and now getting carries. I am not sure which way this game is going to go, but the Ravens will run the ball. It’s just not as favorable a matchup as it appears on paper.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Vikings — The No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL against a rookie RB who was held down by the Bengals a little last week? There’s a chance he breaks the big play, but this matchup has bubble written all over it.

Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jets vs. Bills — Coles and Cotchery are more experienced receivers than Ted Ginn Jr. and Greg Camarillo, but will the Bills corners still not be back in sync this week? Favre has looked like a rookie the last few weeks, and I don’t trust him unless I have to this week.

Greg Jennings, WR Packers vs. Titans — Jennings faces the Titans’ lockdown secondary this week, but the Titans will have their hands full. Jennings had his best game of the season against the Bucs tough defense in Week 4, so owners shouldn’t be scared of using him in this one. He might not build on his 18.5 yards per catch average, but he won’t be taken out of this game plan.

Roddy White, WR Falcons vs. Raiders — There’s some insider trading going on in this one. DeAngelo Hall used to work against White in practice, but that was back before White was such a dominating force in the receiving game. Do you think Hall will know how to get to White? On the other side of the field, Nnamdi Asomugha will be trying to make White’s life tough. So the question becomes, which DeAngelo Hall will we see this week when the Falcons are trying to get White out of Asomugha’s shadow? I like White’s chances.

Cold Shoulders

Marshawn Lynch, RB Bills vs. Jets — The Jets rank fourth in run defense, so Week 9 should be a hard week for Lynch. He’s had his performance limited by Fred Jackson, and he hasn’t hit 100 yards in single game yet. If you are strong at RB, it might be in your best interest sit Lynch this week rather than chance that he gets a touchdown.

Jamal Lewis, RB Browns vs. Ravens — Homie don’t play that. The Ravens are going to keep Lewis down all day. It took Peyton Manning shredding their secondary for Dominic Rhodes to score a rushing touchdown, and Derek Anderson might not be capable of creating that kind of opportunity this week. If Lewis doesn’t score, his performance could make you curl up into the fetal position and cry.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers vs. Titans – If you’re clawing around for his breakout performance this season after he finally got a touchdown against the Colts, don’t. The Packers aren’t likely to try and run the ball on the Titans much, and Albert Haynesworth eats babies.

Clinton Portis, RB Redskins vs. Steelers — I know you’re not going to sit him. I know. (I probably wouldn’t either.) But for the sake of conversation, let’s just talk for a minute. If I am the Steelers, I’m going to focus on stopping the run — as always — and try to get into Jason Campbell’s head, despite the futility of that since he hasn’t thrown an interception all season. If I’m the Redskins, I’m going to look to abuse the fact that their starting free safety and one starting cornerback are out. Every time they play Troy Polamalu close to the line to stop the run, I’m chunking a pass to Chris Cooley, exposed with plenty of room to run. Maybe Cooley will get another touchdown. He wants one. Now, knowing that game plan that I just made up in my head, Portis *might* not be such a good start, but his involvement in the passing game and the likelihood that you have no better makes this entire paragraph almost worthless.

Terrell Owens, WR Cowboys vs. Giants — He led the team in receptions last week but still didn’t even get 35 yards. Why would you take a chance with him against a team that’s even better at harassing the QB? Brad Johnson is not going to be able to make it happen for Owens this week…again.

Tony Scheffler, TE Broncos vs. Dolphins — It’s his first game back from injury, and the Dolphins have been very good about limiting tight ends. Besides, don’t you think Jay Cutler wants to show Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal how he perfected his throwing motion during the bye? Let Scheffler have the week off to prove his worth.

Sleepers

Steve Smith, WR Giants vs. Cowboys — If the Cowboys lock up Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith should play the open field and have above-average numbers. The Cowboys secondary is hurting too much to stop both WRs in the Giants passing attack. But Smith’s day will require “Playoffs Eli” to show up rather than the Eli Manning that’s been looking like garbage the past few weeks.

Donald Lee, TE Packers vs. Titans — Dallas Clark was able to expose the Titans in the middle of the field. If the Packers are smart, they’ll use a similar plan with Lee this week.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Winnings from Week 8

There have been many injuries this season in the NFL. Unfortunately, that’s not really anything new to this sport. Some fans might call for increased player protection, more fines or more pads, but it’s hard to see that making any difference.

In truth, the waiver wire in fantasy football exists as a result of the casualties in football. More often than not, it’s the guys that aren’t on the field that open the door for new faces and stat lines.

In my moonlighting gig as the fantasy football community leader for Bleacher Report, I was sent one particular article on the rampant injuries this season, and I thought my comments on this article summed up my view of the game well enough to present here for my foolish Fools readers. Enjoy.

Injuries happen. Such is the NFL.

It may seem like there are more this year, but it’s not really that much different from last year…or the year before. Just last year, we had players like Trent Green, Ronnie Brown, Larry Johnson, Cadillac Williams and Jeremy Shockey all go out with injuries.

Sadly, we don’t even notice when supporting cast members get hurt, but many more names we don’t know are cut or moved to IR everyday.

The NFL can fine players all they want, but accidents do happen. It’s a tough game to play. You can’t fine someone for every play that goes wrong. Sometimes freak things just happen and people get hurt.

For example, if you go to make a tackle on a QB at his waist and the RB (Sammy Morris) lurches onto your back, you’re going to sink down and hit the QB low (on Brady’s knee). It happens, but you can’t fine anyone for playing the game the way it is meant to be played.

You can strap bubble wrap and padding around every joint of a players body, but at the end of the day, they’re still going to be flying at each other at best-in-the-world speeds and trying to bring each other down. That’s the game. That’s how it’s played, and in a game like this, you’re going to have a player twist the wrong way, hit the wrong spot or just have a fluke fracture or sprain alone in the field.

To get even more deep on you, I think part of what makes football so electrifying, so inspiring and so breathtaking is that every game might be a player’s last.

Every time they step on that field, football players know they are going to leave it all out there. It’s why they are emotional when they leave the game and why they will have a finger removed just to stay out there.

We are watching the best in the business compete at their peak performance level every second of every quarter, and that’s what makes football so special.

Now, how about we see if you can get some of the best on your fantasy football team?

Worth Claiming

Marc Bulger, QB St. Louis Rams — If you gave up on him earlier this season, you might want to reconsider as he heads back into the soft part of his schedule. Donnie Avery is his new love child.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins — He’s efficient, and he’s got playmakers around him at last. If Ted Ginn Jr. emerges as a legitimate deep threat, Pennington could find himself in the top end of fantasy QBs during the second half. He’s no Drew Brees, but he’s had at least 15 fantasy points the last four weeks and put up 250+ yards and at least one TD in the last three weeks.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — JTO oh no! Shaun Hill is now Mike Martz’s QB Voodoo doll, and he’ll take over things in Week 10 after the bye. He was decent in relief of Alex Smith last season with five touchdowns in that three game span, and Mike Singletary hopes he’ll be less of a turnover machine than JTO. Be cautious with him; JTO might be back sooner rather than later.

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos — He’s back on the field, and with Michael Pittman suffering from bruised ribs and Selvin Young/Andre Hall still banged up, he might see a significant amount of carries in Week 9. Leave it to Shanny to figure out how to screw you for picking him up down the line, but as the last man standing, Torain could actually be reliable for at least a few weeks.

Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — If Deuce McAllister misses any time because of this water pill controversy, Stecker and Thomas would share the load for New Orleans. Stecker was a stud filling in for Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister at the end of 2007, and I like him to be the power back if anything were to happen with Deuce. Both backs are seeing some limited touches with Reggie Bush out. The Saints are on bye in Week 9.

Kolby Smith, RB Kansas City Chiefs — If Larry Johnson doesn’t stop assaulting women, Smith might be the starter for the rest of the season. For this week at least, he’s the only RB that Kansas City has, but I wouldn’t expect him to do much.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — Kevin Faulk is seeing most of the work, but Green-Ellis is the short-yardage workhorse for the Patriots. He could vulture a touchdown or two but his value will be squashed when Sammy Morris and/or LaMont Jordan return.

Nate Washington, WR Pittsburgh Steelers — Santonio Holmes is back from his “high” time as an inactive player, so Washington is back to being the No. 3 man in Pittsburgh. He’s good for the occasional long score, which he’s gotten in each of the Steelers’ last three games. Take a chance on him if you need him when he faces a weaker secondary several times in the second half of the season.

Mike Walker, WR Jacksonville Jaguars — He is practicing with the team this week, and while Matt Jones is suspended, Walker should reclaim a significant portion of the receptions for the Jags.

St. Louis Rams D/ST — In the last three weeks, the Rams have gotten more turnovers than any other team in the NFL, and they are getting to the quarterback as much as the top handful of teams. That’s fantasy value right there even if they do let teams get a lot of yardage on them. Just don’t start them this week against the Cardinals.

Quick fixes for this week:

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The best way to recover from a loss to the Cowboys is to run all over the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Earnest Graham and Dunn are bound to take turns running laps to the end zone in this one, and Dunn might even be able to get a score.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins — If Ronnie Brown has another slow week, Williams could get to run the good runs against the Broncos, the silk curtain of run defenses.

Antonio Pittman, RB St. Louis Rams — He had 83 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving in Week 8 but only because Steven Jackson was injured. If you own Jackson, Pittman should probably make your roster for next week as the Rams head into a rushing-friendly portion of their schedule unless you’re deep at running back.

Guys you should probably have already picked up:

David Garrard, QB Jacksonville Jaguars — The Titans are going to win the division, and the Jags are passing. The world has flipped. If Garrard can tear it up against the Browns like no other QB has and set season highs in every category, he’s definitely going to be able to rip into the Bengals and Lions for the next two weeks. His playoff schedule guarantees that the Jags will have to put points on the board.

Donnie Avery, WR St. Louis Rams — Eventually, teams are going to figure out that they need to cover Avery too instead of just swarming all over Torry Holt. Until that happens, he’s burning everyone with at least one long pass for 40+ yards.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans — How many times does he have to score two touchdowns in a game before you pick him up? How many times?!?

Greg Olsen, TE Chicago Bears — Anyone is nuts to drop this guy. Olsen has become one of the primary targets for the Bears, especially in the red zone. In the last two weeks, he’s had more targets than every Bear outside of the running backs; Forte is still a beast in the receiving game.

Ones to Watch

Leon Washington, RB New York Jets — He continues to make big plays for the Jets, but it’s hard to trust him to keep it up when he gets less than 10 carries per game. If he ever becomes more involved, he’s worth acquiring.

Chaz Schilens, WR Oakland Raiders — Since taking the starting job from Ronald Curry, Schilens has just been chizilen. He had his first big-sizzle game in Week 8 with one long 60-yard pass from JaMarcus Russell. We know JaMarcus can pass-izzle ‘em deep standing on his knees, so if Schilens becomes the deep threat in this unpredictable offense, he’s got our blessing, fo shizzle. I, for one, really hope he makes it big so I can keep saying his name.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — He scored! That’s the best way to get noticed in the Chiefs’ offense, and if Thigpen can hit him when Dwayne Bowe is getting doubled, the Chiefs might just make a fantasy player out of him. For now, he looks to be a developing deep league option at best.

Ignoring

Ted Ginn Jr., WR Miami Dolphins — Okay, 175 yards. Where the hell did that come from? He’s come on strong these last few weeks with a good portion of the receptions, but I am not buying this fantasy candy you’re selling, Ted, until I see another performance like that. If you are hurting at WR, he’s worth getting now before some other rookie does, but I won’t hype him until I see him in the game plan for next week.

Droppables

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — I’m afraid the good days are gone for Benson. His only remaining game to circle on the schedule is a Week 14 game against the Colts, but is Benson really the best thing you have in the playoffs? He’s a starting running back, but he hasn’t proven to be very useful even in his easier matchups.

Carson Palmer, QB Cincinnati Bengals — If your team is really hurting and you need the depth and “play now” guys, I think you are okay leaving Palmer on the wire. Obviously, he’s got huge upside, and it’s likely that some other team will stash him on the bench. But we don’t know when he’s going to play again right now. More than likely, you can find someone who’ll do enough for you now to make up for any value you lose down the road. Feel free to debate who to replace Palmer with in the comments if you are struggling with this one.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB Seattle Seahawks — Hasselbeck is an anchor of this offense, so Seattle’s struggles are to be expected without him. They still aren’t a terrible team. His schedule is very easy to end the year, but you probably won’t need him in the playoffs unless another quarterback can get you there while Hasselbeck is banged up. I’m going to go out on a limb and approve dropping him for now, but I’d actually try and hold onto him if you are a playoff-bound team.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 8: Deconstructing the Colts, 49ers

Foolish Thoughts is the weekly column of Jacob Sloan, Fantasy Football Fools’ editor-in-chief, that recaps significant news, notes and performances from the weekend of fantasy football and what it all means for fantasy owners. Foolish Thoughts goes live on Tuesdays at FantasyFootballFools.com and is now available with half the fat.

Peyton Manning has lost that loving feeling.

After watching his performance Monday night, it’s obvious that the Colts aren’t really out of the woods just yet. They lost games that they needed to win early in the season, and now they are going to have to bring it in, get back in sync and play aggressively in the second half of the season to get into the playoffs.

But that means, as a fantasy owner, you just found that loving feeling for Peyton Manning.

If the Colts are looking to charge into the playoffs, we know Manning will be playing significant time in the soft matchups they have in Week 14 and Week 15 against the Bengals and the Lions and the potential wild card battle in Week 16 against the Jaguars. For once, the Colts should not leave owners hanging in the final games of the season.

On the Titans’ side of things, LenDale White has proven himself week after week as a legitimate starter simply because he gets so many touchdowns. If he’s a lock for two touchdowns every week, the big boy may be the better starter than Chris Johnson.

For now, they’re both retaining every-week starter status.

Now, let’s jump back to Sunday’s significant performances…

So Mike Singletary may be good for the 49ers, but he’s no good for fantasy football owners.

The Monday morning announcement of Shaun Hill as the starting QB in San Francisco is only the beginning.

Singletary left the door open for J.T. O’Sullivan to regain his starting role, so now we’re left wondering how long Shaun Hill will keep the job and whether the 49ers receivers (Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan and Bryant Johnson) are worth keeping if the offense is going to fizzle to game management.

Coach Singletary should be apologizing to us, not the press.

Despite the quotes from both sides, I have to believe Martz still likes JTO as his guy. I think it’s safe to let him go from your rosters for now, but you might want him back in a few weeks. Call it luck o’ the Irish.

Singletary is going to bench players that don’t show it on the field, and the 49ers receivers will be erratic. Josh Morgan dropped a pass early in the game that got him sent to the bench — leaving the fantasy owners who were looking forward to the JTO to Josh Morgan connection a little saddened.

Doesn’t Singletary read my waiver wire column?

Singletary also sent Vernon Davis to the showers after a dumb penalty, but both claim that things will be okay. Davis even blogged about it.

Regardless of how much they love each other, you still shouldn’t have Davis on your roster. But it could be intriguing to see if Shaun Hill brings the tight ends into the game more often.

Is it just me or is Seattle’s best receiver pushing 300 pounds?

Foolish one-offs…

  • Jeff Garcia is not going to keep his starting job as long as he makes Brad Johnson look like the better quarterback. If you believe in the hot significant other theory, it’s only a matter of time…
  • I still don’t trust the Dallas defense, despite their more aggressive play in Week 8, and they lost another corner. Eli Manning might have open season against two rookies in Week 9.
  • Did you notice that the Lions scored in the first quarter for the first time this season? Me either. Small victories, very small victories.
  • Santana Moss bounced back, but his next two weeks (Steelers, bye) should be another lull.
  • Same goes for Donnie Avery. Obviously, Marc Bulger really likes a guy that takes almost every pass 30+ yards. You should, too — even if his name is Donnie, which I thought I wouldn’t hear again after New Kids on the Block got off my TV.
  • Speaking of the “New Kids,” I understand they had the brand name recognition, but it’s a tad ridiculous to go by a name including both “new” and “kids” when you’re all pushing 40 and not, by any means, new.
  • Drew Brees would throw the ball in a hurricane and still hit every receiver for a three-touchdown day.
  • Chargers – Shawne Merriman pass rush = Lions secondary. Well, it’s not quite that bad yet, but the Chargers are letting everyone pass on them. Start your QBs accordingly.
  • Welcome back, L.T. Now go on a bye and get even more healthy so Rivers stops passing the ball.
  • Giants-Steelers was a grinder, and Big Ben got ground. His line can run block, but their pass blocking is not what it was last year.
  • Big Ben and Peyton Manning should talk.
  • Remember when I said David Garrard might come out of the bye a little pass-happy? The bye week did him good.
  • Matt Schaub to Kevin Walter is the new Tom Brady to Wes Welker. Difference: Kevin Walter gets the TD passes.
  • Despite his lack of production, Chad Johnson is getting a fair share of targets with Fitzpatrick under center. He could still have a big game this season with Palmer out…yeah, I’m just saying.
  • Willis McGahee is the stud we thought he was. Goodbye, LeRon McClain.
  • Dynasty and deep leaguers, keep an eye on Demetrius Williams.
  • Maybe firing Lane Kiffin wasn’t the right way to go, Oakland. Just maybe.
  • Larry Fitzgerald is the yardage to Anquan Boldin’s touchdowns. It’s a match made in heaven.
  • Is Westbrook healthy this week? Is he back? Is he okay? Are you sure?
  • I think Matt Ryan only throws the ball to another receiver when he confuses them with Roddy White.
  • Leon Washington just keeps popping up to keep Thomas Jones from having bigger days. Imagine if he wasn’t around.
  • Who predicted Tyler Thigpen would have a better passing day than Brett Favre? Not I.
  • Where does Ted Ginn Jr. come from getting 175 yards this week? That never happens, but suddenly, he’s in the game plans. Dynasty and deep leaguers, are you still there?
  • I am convinced that Trent Edwards had an out-of-body experience…in Chad Pennington’s body.
  • Wait, that last one sounded dirty. Scratch that.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 5: And another three bite the dust?

These sudden, mysterious and largely unreported injuries have got to stop. Last week, Carson Palmer was a late scratch. This week, the victim was Matt Schaub, who was hit by a virus the night before the game.

I normally set lineups Saturday night and then let them run, but this sudden injury plague makes me want to start checking again five minutes before game time on Sunday…and then at four minutes, two minutes and one minute until kickoff.

Thanks to the virus, Matt Schaub turned over the reigns to Sage Rosenfels. He looked like he was the hero of the Texan-kind…until he decided to go airborne. When, as a quarterback (and a big one at that), do you EVER think to go airborne to make a play? It wasn’t even a necessary hurdle attempt.

Stay on the ground and slide, Sage. The air will only hurt you. You are NOT Reggie Bush.

Rosenfels ended the day with 246 yards and a TD but gave Texans fans two fumbles and an interception in the fourth quarter and more than enough reasons for Texans fans to stop whimpering that they would rather see Sage starting instead of Schaub. The not-so-wise Sage gave the game away in the fourth quarter in the home opener. That doesn’t win you hearts.

We saw three more QBs go down in the midst of games this week. Matt Hasselbeck (knee), Trent Edwards (concussion) and Brian Griese (shoulder) all got taken out of Sunday’s games, but they managed better than Damon Huard.

Huard owners WISH he had been taken out sooner to make the hurting stop. Daunte Culpepper was a better start than Huard this week.

Who thought there would ever be a week where J.P. Losman, Seneca Wallace, Jeff Garcia and Tyler Thigpen would all have to take over an offense? My hand is not raised.

Kyle Orton scored more fantasy points than Tony Romo and Jay Cutler this week. In fact, he tied Aaron Rodgers and Big Ben for the best QB performance of the week. I am not saying that again.

He was playing Detroit, but do you realize that he’s scored more points than Tony Romo and Jay Cutler over the last three weeks? I think I’m going to be sick.

When did the Packers get so easy to run on? Injuries and poor run stopping are making this unit very droppable.

Chargers couldn’t handle the single-wing, ‘Wildcat’ formation either. I guess the Dolphins have found something special, and Ronnie Brown is a big part of that. Pennington is like a David Garrard circa last year. He is not going to win your game, but he’s probably good for 12 points from time to time.

The Giants looked impressive against Seattle, but they’re also coming off a bye. No, they don’t need Plax to be successful. Domenik Hixon was a sufficient replacement with big play ability. Who took me up on that sleeper pick?

My thoughts on Jerheme Urban weren’t nearly as spot on, but Breaston didn’t impress either. In a blowout, Larry Fitzgerald was the man. That Tim Hightower kid is worth putting on a roster. You are almost a lock for six or more points with guys like that — vultures.

I think the Arizona defense was angry about getting embarrassed last week, and they took it out on Trent Edwards early. If Edwards is out for any length of time, it shouldn’t take anything away from Lee Evans. We know from Losman’s time under center that he likes to push the long ball to Evans, and he did. Losman may be a little sloppy at times, but there are far worse backup QBs in the NFL (see: Brad Johnson).

Washington just keeps shocking the NFC powerhouses. They were supposed to be the bottom of the barrel in the NFC East, not defeat the Cowboys and Eagles in back-to-back games. I don’t see them doing it twice. For once, Santana Moss was shut down by a defense this year, but Portis went off instead. That’ll take the Eagles down a few notches on run defense.

The Chiefs are miserable. Larry Johnson’s only going to be successful behind this line when the run defense is terrible. Maybe the ‘Wildcat’ formation should come to K.C.? I don’t think that will help — even though getting the ball out of Thigpen’s hands would be an improvement.

Watch out for Jamaal Charles. He might be the next Chris Perry. Oh, and the next Chris Perry might be Cedric Benson.

Kerry Collins made the best case to bring back Vince Young Sunday, and then he (sort of) made a case to keep his job there on the final drive against the Ravens. If Collins is going to throw just as many INTs and not play smart football, I don’t see why Vince Young doesn’t jump back in for the Titans. If they wanted to move away from VY as QB, they would have kept Chris Simms on the roster — unless spleens are really that important to functioning as an NFL quarterback.

Sitting a healthy Vince Young behind Kerry Collins will NOT improve his passer rating. I’ve seen experiments.

Marty Booker and Reggie Wayne are competing in a best hands competition. Next week, they are going to catch a ball with one finger. The “buy low” on Peyton Manning has already passed, but if you can get it, get it. I just have a feeling.

Without Griese, the Bucs look like the same boring team that got stomped in the playoffs last year. If the Broncos could stop the run, the score might have been even lower.

Oh, and Earnest Graham owners, this RB split looks like a full committee approach, and Dunn got the extra carry (11 of 21 total carries by the Bucs) on Sunday. He also had the better yardage per carry. Be afraid. Dunn is not done! (Had to say it. Under contract. Now, go buy the bumper sticker.)

That Matt Prater can really kick, can’t he? The rest of the Broncos kept it relatively quiet so as not to anger the Bucs’ big-pass-hunting defense.

The Bengals at Dallas was like a game of failures. I am not even sure if the Cowboys should have won. If not for a right place, right time grab by Crayton, they might not have. Romo will get the passing game together soon. It’s not like he’s having bad days in the meantime, but removing the interceptions and fumbles from his scoring would be nice.

By the way, I think it’s safe to say that Miles Austin has passed up Patrick Crayton. The missed TD pass to Austin was very symbolic if you want to think deeply about it. (Don’t hurt yourself; I’ll handle it.) Austin outproduced Crayton in Week 3 and Week 4, and the only pass Crayton caught this week was intended for Austin.

That Felix Jones can really run, can’t he? See, Cowboys? See how you use him?

Something tells me that Chris Perry loses his job to Cedric Benson in a few weeks. Perry can’t hold onto the ball or get it done when the Bengals passing game is suffering. Benson already looks like a better back, and he’s only been there one week.

Well, look at that. The Patriots figured out a way for Cassel to get the ball to Moss during the bye week. I’m going to guess DNA injection from Tom Brady in some dark laboratory while Bill Belichick laughed maniacally and rewound tape. Totally how it went down.

I’m still glad I don’t own any Patriot RBs. That’s like trying to guess which clown is going to pop out of the car first. Sammy Morris seems to be the only one with guaranteed touches, but now Faulk looks like he is going to be on the field more often with Matt Cassel. Faulk is the better blocker (see: Tom Brady’s knee).

J.T. O’Sullivan is going to get this 49ers passing game together, and when he does, Martz might just make a respectable fantasy quarterback out of him rather than just a matchups starter.

I would have appreciated a small note from Isaac Bruce before I started to move him in my fantasy leagues. That goose egg in Week 1 made me believe he was done, and now he has to become the No. 1 in San Fran. I wouldn’t have dropped you if I would have known that, Brucey.

Let’s see if Bryant Johnson pushes him for the big plays when he is fully healthy again. I still believe Johnson wants to blow us away and show us he would have been a starter anywhere but Arizona.

I have a short list of sleeper picks that haven’t woken up just yet. No. 1 on that list is Mike Walker. He was supposed to be a big target for Garrard this year, but the passing game has stalled because of the offensive line problems. Don’t be distracted by Jerry Porter. Keep your eye on this guy. If you’re in a league with me, EARMUFFS.

Hines Ward > Santonio Holmes. Ward is always around to make the smart play. Maybe even Nate Washington > Santonio Holmes, but Washington is still a little fluky.

The Vikings deserve to be 1-4, but by winning, they may have saved Childress’s job for a little bit longer.

You want to know why you shouldn’t have drafted Adrian Peterson No. 1 overall? Or even No. 2 overall? With a team like the Vikings, even the Saints defense can focus on the run and let Gus Frerotte beat them. It’ll be a lot of feast or famine for A.P. owners this season.

Gramatica should be replaced by Friday. I don’t care if he’s injured. He shouldn’t be starting for the Saints right now, and that is the bottom line. Reggie Bush was winning this game. Drew Brees was winning this game. Hell, even Devery Henderson was winning this game. Gramatica lost it.

At least the Vikings defense is finally looking like they want it.

Rough week for QBs, but many of the dinged up studs will be back under center by Sunday. Fingers crossed, of course.

Cheers and beers for anyone who started DeAngelo Williams and Kyle Orton, especially if you had them both. I would hope you won your Week 5 matchup. Just make sure you entertain all offers for DeAngelo now.

I’m not the first to propose this name, but if Jonathan Stewart is going to be “The Daily Show,” should we call DeAngelo Williams “The Colbert Report?”

Opinions are much appreciated in the comments. I plan to write the official Fantasy Football Nickname Registry once I have collected some feedback.

Week 5 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

I am not sure who won the VP debate last night. Both political parties seem to believe their candidate stepped up to the plate. The NFL is still pretty split in making a decision this election year. I do know that Al Davis likes Sarah Palin — mostly because he believes she’s youthful and has 4.3 speed.

Herm Edwards, on the other hand, really couldn’t make up his mind. He wants to like someone like Palin, who reminds him of a Brodie Croyle or even a Tyler Thigpen, but that’s just to keep up the front that the team is rebuilding. Voting for someone like Joe Biden, an experienced candidate best compared to Damon Huard, might give the impression that the American people can expect to be won back right now by a government that could do a few good things. That’s scary for Herm to think about.

The jury is still out for Bill Belichick. He just taped the whole thing to watch later, and rumor has it that the tapes came from practice runs that the candidates had on stage before the real debate started. That dude is weird.

This week, you are probably looking for a few spot starters to help you over the bye week hump. If your backup isn’t performing at a high level, you might want to take a chance on some of the guys that I point out here. Bubble guys become more worthwhile of consideration on a week like this week. Don’t expect them to put up the same numbers as your studs do each week, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised if they do.

As always, leave a question in the comments if you are struggling with who should start in Week 5.

Hot Hands

Kyle Orton, QB Bears vs. Lions
I know. I am insane, but the Detroit Lions are not hard to throw against. In fact, they encourage you to throw because if you aren’t passing, your running back is embarrassing them by blasting through the giant holes their defensive line can’t close. My guess is that the Bears let Orton cut loose a bit here. Matt Forte is still going to have a field day on the Lions defense, but Orton should have a few good plays through the air just to keep the defense honest. Why the hell not? It’s the Lions. Don’t bench Peyton Manning for him, but if you need a QB, this week Orton could be your man.

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Chargers
It’s not often that you can recommend a man like Pennington. I like him, but for fantasy purposes, he doesn’t put a lot of numbers up unless he has a really nice matchup. This week, you’re in luck. San Diego is letting every quarterback run wild on them this season. Pennington won’t be shut down because San Diego’s defense will also have to worry about Ronnie Brown going into “Wildcat” mode like he did against the Patriots. We know the Chargers can put points on the board, and this game is going to be on Chad to win.

Brian Griese, QB Buccaneers vs. Broncos
Despite Denver’s well-respected corners, the Broncos like shootouts this year. Their defense obliges by letting the opposing QBs pass for more yardage on them than all but a small number of teams in the NFL. Apparently, Griese is going to throw a great deal more than Jeff Garcia did last season, so look for the Bucs to have a big day through the air — as long as there is something left for them after Graham and Dunn tear apart the Broncos ground game.

Matt Forte, RB Bears vs. Lions
This game might be the hottest start he has all year. Forte’s averages more than 80 yards per game, and the Lions basically promise opposing running backs 200+ yards just for playing. Forte is an absolute MUST START this week.

Earnest Graham, RB Buccaneers vs. Broncos
Denver can’t stop the run or the pass. If Larry Johnson can do something, I believe a coke machine — the drink machine, not Travis Henry or Matt Jones — with a football taped to the top can do it. You know, just like the one in those Reggie Bush commercials. Regardless of how many carries Warrick Dunn takes, Graham will have plenty to feed a hungry fantasy football team.

Jonathan Stewart, RB Panthers vs. Chiefs
“The Daily Show” — my new favorite player nickname, by the way — should run over the Chiefs defense this week. Be wary of benching a stud for Stewart since he still splits time with Williams but a good game here could — fingers crossed — start to move him into the more dominant role in this offense.

Steve Slaton, RB Texans vs. Colts
I’m required by foolish fantasy law to mention every rookie in the NFL if I mention any of them. That’s a fact. You want another one? Indianapolis can’t stop the run without Bob Sanders.

Lance Moore, WR Saints vs. Vikings
Moore is seeing quite a few passes come his way with Shockey and Colston still missing. They’ll need to pass against a tough Vikings run defense this week, so look for Moore to dominate on targets again and make something out of them just like he did last week.

Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban, WR Cardinals vs. Bills
If Boldin doesn’t play this week, both of these WRs could see looks from Kurt Warner. Buffalo has a tough defense, but their weakness will be at corner this week. With Buffalo’s best corner out of commission, Breaston and Urban should face the Buffalo’s third corner and rookie Leodis McKelvin. Breaston’s a lock to see looks, but it could be Urban that steps up in this game since Breaston will most likely not be taken off the kick return duties. It’s in the air right now, but watch reports coming out of Arizona to see if the coaches leak the game plan.

Amani Toomer, WR Giants vs. Seahawks
Plax is out for this week because of his INSUBORDINATION, a word that must always be typed in uppercase. Toomer should see more looks his way, and the two younger Giants WRs, Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith, will fill in the rest. Toomer is a big red zone threat and a better start than both the young ones.

Bobby Engram, WR Seahawks vs. Giants
He’s back. Hasselbeck will be giving him big hugs all day on Sunday, and he should see plenty of action as long as his shoulder is really good to go. Seattle is likely to fall behind, and Engram is the most trusted receiver they will have on the field to make critical plays.

Santana Moss, WR Redskins vs. Eagles
Don’t be afraid of the Eagles secondary. Did you see what Kyle Orton did to them last week? Yeah, and that was Kyle Orton. Moss will continue to get his points each game. The Redskins have been good about not turning the ball over, but Campbell won’t have to force it to Moss to keep Moss’s fantasy revitalization going strong this season.

Justin Gage, WR Titans vs. Ravens
Since the RBs will be slowed a bit by the Baltimore defense, Collins should be looking for Gage to pick up crucial yards in the air. Gage hasn’t put up a lot of TDs, but he gets consistent yardage as long as Collins is at QB. Expect the usual.
UPDATE: Gage is still struggling with a groin injury this week, and, right now, he is listed as ‘doubtful.’ Unless that changes, I’d suggest you go with a different option this week.

Anthony Fasano, TE Dolphins vs. Chargers
The Chargers have given up a TD to a tight end every game this season. Pennington really likes throwing to his tight ends — probably because his WRs are nothing to write home about. Yup, that pretty much sums up my reasoning.

Bubble Boys

Carson Palmer, QB Bengals vs. Cowboys
Palmer might not even play this week, but if he does, he’ll face and Cowboys secondary that doesn’t punish you. Even with that glorious matchup, he’s a big risk. He could go right back out of this game or just look bad trying to play with an elbow injury limiting him.

Jake Delhomme, QB Panthers vs. Chiefs
He could probably throw if he wanted to throw, but he won’t have to against this horrible run defense. Decent start if you have to plug him in, but he might only put up one TD and yardage unless this one gets heated. If he’s your best option, use him.

Chris Johnson, RB Titans vs. Ravens
Oh no, it’s another tough defense. If you haven’t noticed, Johnson can score against tough run defenses. He’s just TOO fast, and he can get to the outside. Baltimore will try to stop him, but in my mind, he is entering into unsittable status after last week’s showing against Minnesota. Plus, you might as well use him this week. If Baltimore twists as many ankles and breaks as many bones as they did against Pittsburgh, then this game might be the last one of the season for Chris Johnson and LenDale White.

Deuce McAllister, RB Saints vs. Vikings
Wow, I’m sure you’re excited. You just picked up a power running back that *could* be featured in a high-powered offense as long as he stays healthy this season. Unfortunately, he faces Minnesota. The Vikings aren’t a total lock to keep him out of the end zone, but unless some Saints passing plays die one or two yards short, McAllister should have limited fantasy potential. Since he’s TD-dependent, I’d look elsewhere. Surely, there’s a guy on your roster that you drafted who has a better matchup this week. If not, start Deuce but limit your expectations.

Mewelde Moore, RB Steelers vs. Jaguars
Surprisingly, the Jaguars aren’t all that scary to run against this year, but the question is whether or not Moore will be featured as a RB or used sparingly. He’s the fourth in line for carries (or at least, he was before all the injuries last week), and the Steelers may opt to have Big Ben throw more this week rather than risk putting too much of the offense in the hands of a backup guy. If you need a RB, he’s not a bad spot start, but there’s the risk that he doesn’t get the same looks Mendenhall or Willie Parker would.

Bobby Wade, WR Vikings vs. Saints
The Vikings haven’t exactly shredded it through the skies this season, but Wade had 75 yards from seven catches last week while no one was watching. As long as Sidney Rice remains a little banged up, Wade should get the majority of the snaps against the Saints very bad secondary. Scoring is probably too much to ask, but Wade could be a decent spot starter in a WR3 position. Almost anyone involved in the Vikings vs. Saints game is worthy of fantasy consideration.

Cold Shoulders

Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers vs. Falcons
Even if he plays this week, he’s still hurt. I wouldn’t take a chance on him. The Packers game plan will probably involve a heavy dose of Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson to win this one.

Edgerrin James, RB Cardinals vs. Bills
The aging running back busted out a good game last week against the Jets, but the offense will come down a few notches when it’s the Buffalo defense on the other end of the field. James won’t put many two TD games together this year as long as Kurt Warner is under center. You can go ahead and scratch this one off the list.

Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, RB Jaguars vs. Steelers
Other than TDs, there’s not many ways for running backs to make fantasy points against the Steeler defense. Look elsewhere this week. The Jaguars just don’t have the line right now to push around the Steeler run stoppers.

Randy Moss, WR Patriots vs. 49ers
Sit Moss until further notice…and by further notice, I really mean until Tom Brady is back next season. Matt Cassel has got to prove me wrong, but I don’t see him getting the ball to Moss anytime soon even though, with the 49ers, it’s always a potential shootout.

Sleepers

Domenik Hixon, WR Giants vs. Seahawks
I like Hixon from the massive, three touchdown performance he had this preseason. With Plaxico Burress out for a game, Hixon might be able to fill his shoes or at least share snaps with Steve Smith. Hixon’s got that big play ability and has been under the tutelage of Toomer. The other Steve Smith is still the safe play here, but if you want a deep sleeper, Hixon might be just that.

Dallas Cowboys defense vs. Bengals
If Carson Palmer doesn’t start, I expect the Cowboys to get their first INT of the season. If not, this defense could be high risk, high reward. It’s still the Bengals, and who knows when they will put it together again.