Gronking for Rob Gronkowski Stand-ins: Replacing Gronk for the Playoffs

Let’s get this straight — there is no replacing Rob Gronkowski. Contrary to popular offseason belief, he has been on pace to reproduce his miraculous 2011 season, if not exceed it. He’s the head of the pack when it comes to tight ends, and you’re not going to find those kinds of points on the waiver wire floor.

But alas, you must because not even Gronkowski can “Gronk” his broken forearm back into game shape. So brace yourself. This isn’t going to be pretty.

Rather than guess who’s available in your league, I thought I’d take a look at who is available in several of mine. In one league, I see Joel Dreessen, Dwayne Allen, Marcedes Lewis, and  Anthony Fasano at the bottom of the pile. In a 10-man PPR league, the pickings are a little better: Kyle Rudolph, Dennis Pitta, Scott Chandler, Brent Celek, and Jared Cook.

Before we begin, obviously, the best of the bunch is Brandon Myers is you’re in one of those leagues that is sleeping on him, but everyone in my leagues has gotten smart to him by now. Greg Olsen is another name that gets tossed to the wire  occasionally  throughout the season, but he’s broken out as of late and probably got picked up. Martellus Bennett might have been dropped during Eli Manning‘s slump, and I’d be willing to take a shot with him coming out the Giants’ bye if you can get him.

Also not available in my league but worth consideration are Dustin Keller and Jermichael Finley. They would be just below Kyle Rudolph on my list if they were on the wire.

Barring a chance at any of those guys, you’re stuck with what I listed above. So let’s break them down.

Kyle Rudolph stands out as the biggest name of the bunch. He was a touchdown maker earlier in the season who went through a little bit of a slump before putting up points again just before his bye. I like him as a decent Gronk replacement, and perhaps the Vikings can fix their offensive troubles coming out of the bye. Unfortunately, he has game remaining against Chicago (twice) and the Texans in Week 16, which makes him a less promising option than he really should be.

Logan Paulsen‘s been a decent piece of the Redskins’ offense these last few weeks, and he scored his first touchdown last week coming out of Washington’s bye. He makes a decent play down the stretch in an offense that should continue to hum with Robert Griffin III under center and one that is playing for the future. The schedule doesn’t jump out at you, but playing the Eagles in Week 16 could be a fantasy points bonanza, assuming the Eagles pack it in for the year.

Jared Cook  was a sleeper to start the year. Many expected a breakout with Jake Locker under center, but the Titans just can be trusted to use Cook’s skills as a receiver. But I have to take the bait with him. Locker looked great in his return and hit Cook for a score. There’s promise here. And Cook faces the Colts and Jets in the fantasy playoff weeks.

Brent Celek doesn’t excite me, but the Eagles have a solid passing schedule with the Panthers, Bucs, Bengals, and Redskins on their slate. Unfortunately, I’d avoid Celek unless you can afford to stash him until we see one of the Eagles’ passers come to life. Nick Foles hasn’t been a spark for the Eagles offense, and Micheal Vick just hasn’t provided many  opportunities  for his playmakers to make plays. Go with Celek only if you can’t get any of the previous guys off the wire.

Dwayne Allen is a starting option only as long as Coby Fleener is out. When Fleener returns, the two will be frustrating owners as they  dilute  the tight end points you’ll get out of Andrew Luck throwing the ball. Allen gets to play the Bills this week without him, but Fleener will probably return before Week 16. If not, Allen will have the Chiefs all to himself.

Allen’s on my list because he’s a good starter for the next few games, but know that you’ll probably need someone else to support him in the playoffs.

While the above tight ends could be good weekly options, the remaining tight ends on this list are mostly spot starts. Dennis Pitta is currently concussed and hasn’t been very reliable since Week 3. He scored in Week 10 against the Raiders…but it was the Raiders. Joel Dreessen has way too many e’s in his name, and he splits his points with Jacob Tamme. While there was a three-game stretch earlier this season where you could count on Dreessen to find the  end zone   it seems that time has passed.

Dallas Clark hasn’t been as hot as the rest of the Bucs’ offense, but he’s benefited from their production. Still, it’s hard to trust him as a starting option in the fantasy playoffs, even if he faces the Saints in Week 15. Scott Chandler‘s schedule isn’t as scary as some, but he could get you 2 as easily as he could get you 9+ points. And Anthony Fasano has been a non-participant in the Dolphins’ offense lately.

That leaves us with Marcedes Lewis, who should be in this group as a matchups play if you look past his Week 11 performance with Chad Henne taking over at quarterback for the Jags. The schedule isn’t intimidating, which makes Lewis a promising option if you get this far down the list. Of all the guys after Allen, I’d probably consider Lewis the top of the group. I might even consider grabbing him over Celek if given the choice.

You’ll know after a few weeks whether Lewis can be counted on to produce. Just make sure you shore up your tight end position with another option in case Lewis returns to fantasy purgatory.

See, I told you it wouldn’t be pretty.

On the Waiver Wire for Week 8: Matthew Stafford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jon Kitna are the quarterbacks you seek

The pain continues. We lost a lot of good men out there.

If you were already struggling to replace Jermichael Finley (like me) or fill the hole left by Dallas Clark (like me), I hope that you weren’t also relying on Tony Romo (again…like me) who is now out for the rest of the fantasy season. He may be back in time to play two games when most of us are in the fantasy playoffs, but that will only happen if — and that’s a big if — the Cowboys are in still in the running to make the playoffs. Plenty would have to break their way for that to happen.

Look at your quarterback’s schedule right now. If he fapicapces the Giants at any point this season, it’s time to strengthen your backup quarterback position. The New York Giants have already knocked five quarterbacks out of games this year after taking out Romo on Monday Night Football, and they’ll continue to attack.

Make sure you hang on to Kevin Kolb. Vick will face the Giants in Week 11.

If you a Favre owner, you might as well jump on the new quarterback bandwagon as well. Old Favre-ful hasn’t been putting up the numbers he did last season, and he looked terrible on Sunday night against his old team. His ankle can only get more fractured. Without a bye week in his future, I have to say it’s all downhill from here. Take a stab at adding one of these “Romo replacement” quarterbacks before the Romo owner does.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Detroit quarterbacks have been the unsung heroes of fantasy through the first part of the year. Until the Giants knocked Shaun Hill out, he was keeping up with the elite of the quarterback class. Stafford, in case you forgot him, is the starter in Detroit, which implies that he’s even better than Shaun Hill, the backup. This week, he gets to play the 31st ranked pass defense in Washington. This could be the beginning of a beautiful quarterback savior-ship.

Jon Kitna, QB, Dallas Cowboys
The most immediate gainer from Tony Romo’s injury, Kitna is now in control of the offensive weapons in Dallas. This group is the most talented that Kitna has ever had at his disposal, but he’s also probably past his prime as a quarterback. Time will tell what he’s able to do with Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Dez Bryant, Felix Jones…and the less than stellar offensive line that the Cowboys have struggled to work behind this season. At least this week he gets the Jaguars, which shouldn’t pose much of a challenge. If you can’t get your hands on Stafford, go get Kitna as a safe alternative.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills
Fitzpatrick seems to have emerged as a consistent fantasy starter. He’s had 20 fantasy points or more (standard scoring with 6-point passing touchdowns) in his last three games, and he somehow managed to throw four touchdowns against the Ravens formidable pass defense — and two against the Jets. As long as the Bills continue to play from behind, Fitzpatrick will have value, and as I said in the Scoring Leaders post this week, he could rise to fantasy fame just like Tyler Thigpen did under Chan Gailey’s system in Kansas City not too long ago. But if you take a chance on Fitzpatrick, know that he’s a candidate to fall off a fantasy cliff at any moment, as the Bills are apt to do. He has his doubters. So while he’s doing well now (and you should ride it while you can), he’s a riskier pickup this week than someone like Kitna or Henne. I’d still take that chance. If you’re a gambler, you could even go with Fitz over Kitna.

Troy Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have passed over David Carr just like the fantasy gods did and named Troy Smith the starter for Week 8. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. As long as Alex Smith is held out with his separated shoulder (2-3 weeks) and maybe even after, Smith will be worth owning. And Singletary must have seen something he liked in Smith since they acquired him in order to jump him over Carr, the backup quarterback, to be the starter and to be bold enough to go into Week 8 with just two healthy quarterbacks, Carr and Smith, on the active roster. In the next four weeks, San Francisco faces Denver, a bye week, and then St. Louis and Tampa Bay. If Smith performs well in Week 8, the 49ers could adjust their offense over the bye and go into Week 10 with Troy Smith as the official starter, keeping the job even after Alex Smith is back to 100 percent. Just saying, it could happen. The 49ers have talented receiving weapons in Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore, who catches plenty of passes out of the backfield, and Alex Smith was putting up serviceable numbers before his injury.

Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins
Henne’s not going to come close to the elite most weeks, but he’s doing plenty of passing in Miami right now. He may not be on the waiver wire, but if he is available, I’d slot him behind Stafford, Fitzpatrick, and Kitna as a guy to target to replace Romo or Favre. And I think I’d rather start Henne than Matt Cassel, who just doesn’t inspire confidence in me yet.

Other Romo replacement considerations: Matt Cassel (QB-Chiefs), Josh Freeman (QB-Bucs), Sam Bradford (QB-Rams), and Matt Moore (QB-Panthers)

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Blount got his fair share of carries this week against the Rams with Earnest Graham injured and Kareem Huggins out for the season, and he made good use of them. Tampa Bay’s coaches now say he’ll be splitting time with Cadillac Williams in the backfield, and he’s started to pick up the blitz well enough to protect Josh Freeman. Make sure you get your hands on him now before he takes over the entire Bucs rushing attack. Cadillac isn’t going to put up much of a fight with his age and past injuries weighing him down.

Danny Woodhead, RB, New England Patriots
I’ve mentioned him before, so why haven’t you gotten him yet? He’s now an integral part of the Patriots’ offense, and he’s worth owning, especially in PPR leagues. His slow day against the Chargers may have led owners to dump him, but I think he’ll get back on track.

James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers
Donald Driver finally seems to be slowing down, and Jones is ready to take his role and run with it. Like the Colts, if you can get a piece of the Packers’ offense, you want it.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Reports of his “tweak” this weekend seem to be false, and all signs point to Gonzalez returning to the Colts roster this weekend, just in time to replace an injured Austin Collie. He should start ahead of Blair White if things go as planned, but be sure to check his status later in the week to make sure he’s playing. Without Dallas Clark, the Colts’ wide receivers should receive some extra attention from Peyton Manning for the rest of the season.

Blair White, WR, Indianapolis Colts
If Gonzalez doesn’t go, he’s your guy. Collie’s out, and White was able to jump straight into this offense as soon as he was signed from the practice squad. He should hold value until Austin Collie returns or Anthony Gonzalez unseats him. But this kid has staying power. As a walk-on in college, he eventually rose to team captain.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
If you believe in Ryan Fitzpatrick, believe in Steve Johnson. Other than Lee Evans, who had a huge week, Johnson has benefited the most from Buffalo’s rejuvenated passing attack. And he’s getting into the end zone consistently.

Mike Williams, WR, Seattle Seahawks
The big guy in Seattle has shown enough to be trusted after two games of 10+ points, and he’s got a nice schedule the rest of the way with Matt Hasselbeck.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay Packers
What? The Packers are finally letting him run with it? So they are. If you’re still holding onto Jackson from earlier in the season, keep him. If someone in your league dumped him after his weak first half of the year, go get him. As the weather turns in Green Bay, he could turn into a reliable fantasy option to end the season. Just like I said about James Jones, if you can get a piece of this Packers offense, you want it.

David Gettis, WR, Carolina Panthers
The rookie wideout landed on a lot of fantasy radars this week with his two-touchdown performance and with Matt Moore returning under center. Steve Smith will continue to receive most of the defensive attention, which could open up the other side of the field for Gettis, but I’d like to see him do it one more time before I rely on him. He’s a stash with great potential now that this offense is moving with Moore.

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Chris Chambers is out, and it seems McCluster is in. He’s finally being used in this offense, so it’s time to join the bandwagon. I don’t put much faith in Matt Cassel, but with the way the Chiefs are running the football and playing defense, surely he can manage a few plays in the passing game, especially with that nice schedule.

Chester Taylor, RB, Chicago Bears
I’m not too high on him, but he gets an upgrade this week with the Bears saying he’ll be handling goal-line duties moving forward. I agree with FF Toolbox that this probably doesn’t hurt Forte much. It just makes Taylor an interesting stash or wait-and-see guy when the Bears come out of their bye week.

Don’t forget about a few wait-and-see players I’ve named in past weeks: Danario Alexander (WR-Rams), James Starks (RB-Packers), and Arrelious Benn (WR-Bucs), just to name a few.

More waivering and wiring from around the fantasy football Web-u-verse…

Fantasy Draft Day Pick or Pass: Top 12 Tight Ends by ADP

After going through the “pick or pass” of the average draft positions for running backs and wide receivers, we come to the next position on many draft boards, tight end.

While there’s a top tier of elite options, the tight end position is pretty deep this year. Players that didn’t even make this list could be valuable starters by season’s end, but here we’ll just review the top 12 picks at tight end according to average draft position.

These ADP values were taken from Fantasy Football Calculator and were current as of August 13, 2009.

Pick or Pass: Top 12 Tight Ends as Drafted in Mock Drafts

1. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys – ADP: 4.05 – PICK
As a favorite target of Tony Romo, Witten will get plenty of love this season. He’s likely to lead the team in receptions, and that makes him in a class of his own when it comes to tight ends this year. Witten is a pick, and you’ll have to burn an early one if you want him on your team.

2. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers – ADP: 4.12 – PASS
Many would write off last season as the result of a nagging injury and expect Gates to return to form in 2009, but I think the 2008 season showed us a little something more. Philip Rivers has more targets than just Gates in the Chargers offense now, and Vincent Jackson might be the top target on this team for the future. While he’s still one talented tight end, I’d worry about taking Gates this high and expecting him to produce like the Gates of old. I’d much rather wait a bit for a tight end with less risk. I’ll pass.

3. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons – ADP: 5.04 – PICK
While Gates is questionable, Gonzalez remains steady among the elite tight ends. He’s no longer in Kansas City, but Atlanta should utilize him in plenty of passing situations and has christened him as the new “hot route” for Matt Ryan. Don’t expect him to be more productive than he was last season — that was likely a career year for Tony G. — but a few touchdowns below that level should be possible. He’s a good pick.

4. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts – ADP: 5.10 – PICK
Despite an injury this offseason, Clark’s stock has been on the rise lately. As I mentioned in our wide receiver pick or pass, Clark could benefit more than Anthony Gonzalez from Marvin Harrison’s departure. He should excel as the second look in this offense and is likely to see the ball coming his way as much as he has in past seasons or more. As a late fifth- or sixth-round pick, you could do worse than taking your tight end a bit early and picking Clark.

5. Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears – ADP: 6.06 – PICK
Unfortunately for those of you drafting later this month, you won’t have the benefit of snagging Olsen while his value was still on the rise. With Cutler in town and reports out of training camp that Olsen is already his shiny new toy, Greg Olsen is projected to finish the year as a top-five tight end. As such, he’s now being drafted as one, so don’t expect a bargain. If you can get him in the late sixth round, that’s still pretty good. Any later than that, and you’re picking him at a steal of a price. He’s a pick.

6. Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – ADP: 7.05 – PASS
Kellen Winslow would normally be among the elite tight ends, but his move to the Bucs has hurt his value. While the Bucs expect to use him quite a bit in two-tight-end sets, Tampa Bay is not the play-from-behind, passing offense that Winslow thrived in while in Cleveland. They will rule the field with their defense and two- to three-headed running attack. Even more damaging, Jerramy Stevens will still line up at tight end and has the talent to take some opportunities away from Winslow. Winslow could get some looks in the red zone, but Tampa Bay’s talk about spreading the ball around and an unnamed quarterback make him unworthy of a selection before the eighth round. There’s better value to be had, and I’ll pass.

7. Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins – ADP: 7.11 – PICK
Cooley’s one-touchdown season last year was a bit of a fluke. Santana Moss received a lot of attention early in the year, and the Redskins punched it in on the ground throughout the majority of the season. While they looked a little lackluster in their first preseason game this year, the Redskins’ offense should still look to Cooley when they need a play, and I’d expect him to return to form this season. Cooley is a solid tight end pick, and he’s likely to still be available in the eighth round.

8. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans – ADP: 8.03 – PICK
As a Texan, Daniels carries the hype that the Houston team and fans create every season — the hype that convinces us all that they could be the next explosive offense to hit fantasy football. In truth, they showed they could be a force in 2008. Andre Johnson’s always been elite when healthy, and Kevin Walter is on his way to being a known name. Owen Daniels was a blessing at tight end last season for those who snagged him late, and he should continue to be a solid option this year. Much like Witten, he’s a primary target when the Texans need a play, and he has the upside to rise higher than this draft stock. Don’t be afraid to take him with your pick in the eighth round.

9. John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks – ADP: 9.09 – PICK
Carlson may lose some touches to the newcomer T.J. Houshmandzadeh but he’s developing into one of the elite tight ends in the game. Don’t expect him to take a big step from his rookie totals in just his second season, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if he added a few touchdowns to his 627 yards and five touchdowns from last year. As a late-round tight end selection, Carlson is dependable enough to target in your draft if you’d rather stockpile depth at other positions with your early picks. Carlson is a solid pick.

10. Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans Saints – ADP: 11.04 – PASS
Despite his brutal playing style and his reputation as a playmaker with the Giants, Shockey hasn’t done much for the Saints since his trade. Fantasy football is very much about what a player has done for you lately, and Shockey’s not earning any street cred. Brees throws the ball more than most, but Shockey was never healthy enough or useful enough to warrant a significant number of passes. He’s still carrying this ADP value simply because he’s a known name, but I’d much rather have a tight end who has proven their worth in the offense they run — Zach Miller comes to mind. Avoid falling for the name game and pass on Shockey.

11. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers – ADP: 12.08 – PICK
The Steelers don’t give Miller many chances to leave his blocking duties at the line, but Miller can catch the ball very well when called upon. He seemed to be on the rise for several seasons until he had a setback last year. I’m afraid he may have already peaked, but it’s hard to complain about a guy that you can draft in the 12th round. I don’t love Miller because he lacks upside, but he’s solid enough to be worth the pick.

12. Tony Scheffler, Denver Broncos – ADP: 12.12 – PICK
I was a big Scheffler fan when Jay Cutler was in town, but without his great quarterback, I’m not sure where Scheffler lands with this new offense. There were rumors that he would be traded early this offseason, followed by rumors that he was touted by coaches as one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. I side with the coaches on that one, but he might not be able to show it unless Kyle Orton makes a point of getting him the ball. Scheffler will still share time with Daniel Graham, the better blocker and a former Patriot, which limits Scheffler’s value, but it does not limit it enough to prevent me from taking a chance on him in the 12th round. Expect to see what he’s worth this preseason. If he looks like he’s getting involved, he’s worth this pick.

While we only covered the top-12 tight ends in this “pick or pass” feature, there are plenty more out there to be had in your fantasy drafts. The tight end position should be fairly deep this season, and guys like Visanthe Shiancoe or Zach Miller might be all you need to win your championship.

As always, the comments are yours. If you have questions about tight ends or comments on our rankings or passes, you know what to do.

Wild Card Weekend, Part 1: Saturday’s Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Here we are in the postseason, and just because the regular season is over, that doesn’t mean your fantasy football season has to come to and end.

Before we dive into our offseason coverage on how to make you a better fantasy football player and more attractive to the opposite sex, we’ll be covering the playoffs “game preview” style and starting with this week’s Wild Card Weekend.

In fact, I’ll be playing the ESPN Gridiron Playoff Challenge just to satisfy the itch for a few more weeks. You have no idea how good a hit it is…

I’d offer prizes, but then I would have to give something away — and didn’t we just do enough of that this holiday season. As a worthy substitute, you could consider joining up with the Bruno Boys’ league and stealing some of their prized booty.

Now, on to the previews … that’s why you’re here anyway, not for the Booty.

Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals

Holy crap! The Buzzsaw in the postseason IN Arizona — and they barely sold enough tickets. I am not sure who takes this game. I know the Cardinals have the horrible playoff reputation and the shaky games as of late, but if you don’t think that Anquan Boldin is going to be head slamming people to make a playoff win happen, then you just don’t respect your facial bones.

You have to love Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin here in what could be a high-scoring affair. Matt Ryan won’t be a slouch, but rookie quarterbacks don’t have a good record in the playoffs.

Michael Turner is the best lock there is in this game — and I’m starting him. If Atlanta does get the win, it will be because of Turner. The Cardinals could let him go off early in the game even if the Falcons don’t get to control the clock with a lead in the second half.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, have a risky situation at running back with Edgerrin James likely to get a start and Tim Hightower vulturing touchdowns. I’d take James if you need a yardage guy, but I’m not sure you can bet on the Cardinals scoring enough on the ground to make Hightower a good play.

If it came down to salary cap, I’d pay the price for Turner and Warner if you can afford it. More power to you if you can afford to grab Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald, but I dislike the probability that one goes off in spite of the other. They are two-headed receiving beast, and it’s hard to pick just one.

Roddy White makes a great bargain since we know he’ll be targeted quite a bit by the rookie QB and faces a Cardinals defense always ready to give up the big play — even to Tarvaris Jackson. White’s good for at least one score, and he’s more of a sure thing than the Arizona receivers.

I’m projecting this one ends up on the over rather than the under — currently set at an over/under of 51 points. If you can get your hands on any of these guys, I’d do it. There probably won’t be much kicking in this one, but Jason Elam and Neil Rackers should see a little short action when drives are stalled short of a score. I’d lean towards Elam.

And, obviously, I wouldn’t look to start either of these teams on defense this weekend.

Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers

It’s actually a good thing that this game is away. Even though the Colts looked more at home in their new stadium late in the season, it’s not quite the comfort zone it should be yet, and they already beat the Chargers in San Diego once at h this year. Now, they just have to go back and do it again.

In the first matchup, it was a close contest decided by a game-ending kick from Adam Vinatieri. The Chargers just left too much time on the clock when they tied it up and gave the ball back to Peyton Manning. It’ll probably look a lot similar tonight.

The Chargers, a quarterback-friendly team this year, just don’t have enough on defense to stop Peyton Manning on a game-winning drive. His will should be the deciding factor.

That said, Peyton Manning is probably the best fantasy bet you can take this postseason with Rivers just slightly behind him. Both quarterbacks have gone off several times this season, but Manning has the Chargers defense in his favor and a hot streak on his way into the playoffs.

The Colts defense, while questionable, is pretty good against the pass, and they could at least encourage San Diego to take a different approach.

The Chargers will probably look to LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles to support their efforts and keep Manning off the field, so I like both of them. For salary cap purposes, I’d actually go with a bargain in Darren Sproles, who had two touchdowns to L.T.’s three in the season finale against the Broncos. Sproles’ explosiveness is worth betting on for the price he’ll run you.

UPDATE: With news breaking of L.T.’s injury, Sproles looks like an even better play. L.T. will still make a go of it, but it’s hard to say how much he will be able to do. Looks unlikely that he’ll be a big factor.

The Colts backs are not nearly as valuable. There are too many question marks around Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes to trust them. Even when Addai starts, Rhodes sometimes gets the scores. I’d avoid them if you can.

As far as the receivers, I like Reggie Wayne, of course, and Vincent Jackson just a slight bit less. From there, it gets iffy. I’d rather have Dallas Clark than any other tight end in the playoffs at this point, even over Antonio Gates or Bo Scaife, once the Titans start playing.

Again, there’s not much to bet on with these two defenses. The Colts are questionable and the Chargers are not trustworthy. With such a selection of defenses playing tomorrow, it’d be better to choose between Miami or Baltimore in what should be a contest decided by who plays the most mistake-free football.

With an over/under of 50 in this game as well, it’s a safe bet to go with Colts and Chargers offensive studs when you can get your hands on them. Manning should be worth the price, and Rivers is a decent substitute if the commercial buckethead is out of your price range.

Adam Vinatieri is a good choice at kicker, but other options like David Akers and Ryan Longwell look good for tomorrow’s games as well. It is, as always, a toss up at kicker. Flip a coin, throw a dart at the board and then just pick one.

The good thing about salary caps in playoff fantasy football is that you can just use however much money you have left over for your kicker after you’ve put together your team. Easy call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, that’s just disappointing.

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

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

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

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

I guess he really is that awesome…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That, my friends, is magical.

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

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

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

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

And yes, France is a country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Fool and His Money in Week 3

Last week, Nick and I were on fire. We had identical picks for 12 of the 15 games, and in those games, the two of us went 8-3 with one push.

Sadly, I lost the three picks on which we disagreed. After a sterling 11-3-1 record in Week 2, Nick is now up by three games.

Before we get started, let me explain a bit of what goes on behind the curtain.

While we don’t discuss our picks before we send them in to Jacob each week, Nick and I do watch football together on Sundays with all of our friends and participate in a mutual fantasy football league (with Jacob). It should come as no surprise that our picks and our logic are often similar, but no worries here. I’m going to beat Nick like he owes me money this week.

Here are some stats from the season thus far:

Home Team Winning Outright: 16-15
Favorites: 19-12
Home Team Against the Spread (ATS): 14-16-1
Favorites ATS: 15-14-1


Nothing out of the ordinary. The favorites are winning roughly two-thirds of the games, and the spread splits are very even. We’ll see if the trends continue in Week 3.

Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons

Chadam Takes: FALCONS (-5.5) over Chiefs

I wonder if Nick is doubling down on the Chiefs after last week. My condolences go out to L.J. owners — the situation in Kansas City has “Moss in Oakland” written all over it.

Nick Takes: FALCONS (-5.5) over Chiefs

I placed my faith in the Chiefs last week, and they tomahawked any hope I had of winning my bet early on. The Falcons are competing, and I expect Michael “The Burner” Turner to have another good game closer to his Week 1 performance than his Week 2 one.

Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills

Chadam Takes: BILLS (-9.5) over Raiders

The Raiders should be getting more points here, especially considering this game is at Buffalo. How long will it be until teams start throwing 11 men in the box against McFadden?

Nick Takes: BILLS (-9.5) over Raiders

The Bills look like they are for real. They’ve beaten two playoff teams from last year convincingly. I don’t expect them to have much trouble with the Raiders while at home. A preemptive congrats to Marshawn Lynch owners in Week 3.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears

Chadam Takes: BEARS (-3) over Buccaneers

Even with Hester doubtful for this game, I have to go with Chicago. This one won’t be a barn burner. The over/under is 35.5 points, and I’m thinking less than 30 points will be scored in this game.

Nick Takes: BEARS (-3) over Buccaneers

This game will set the tone for the first half of the season for each of these teams. Both these teams have decent running games, great defenses and QBs they wish they didn’t have to start. The Bears are at home, and that makes the difference in my mind.

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans

Chadam Takes: Texans (+5) over TITANS

Albert Haynesworth is a monster. That being sad, I think people are sleeping on the Texan’s offense after they faced a great Pittsburgh D and took the fantasy back burner with the unexpected bye week.

Nick Takes: Texans (+5) over TITANS

The Titans have looked really good so far this season, but as a Hurricane Ike evacuee who still hasn’t been able to return home, I have to make the homer pick with the Texans. Houston will need some points from their defense and special teams to make this upset happen.

Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings

Chadam Takes: Panthers (+3.5) over VIKINGS

The Panthers have looked surprisingly good in the first two weeks. With Adrian Peterson limited and potentially out, this pick is a no-brainer. Here’s the real question: how good is Carolina?

Nick Takes: Panthers (+3.5) over VIKINGS

Talk about no respect. The 2-0 Panthers are underdogs against the 0-2 Vikings. I was liking the Vikings in this one until I saw that, and then I heard they are panicking and starting their backup QB, Gus Frerotte. I remember when I was younger, my dad told me only an idiot would bet on Gus Frerotte. Well, Dad, I’m trying…

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

Chadam Takes: PATRIOTS (-13) over Dolphins

I really don’t like giving two TDs, but it’s Chad Pennington for crying out loud. Besides, I am warming up to the underdog role the Patriots are taking. Here’s to hoping the home team dominates.

Nick Takes: PATRIOTS (-13) over Dolphins

The Patriots needed some time to get over their long lost lover, Brady, but now it’s time for everything to click with their newest pretty boy, Matt Cassel. Consider this the honeymoon. I’m expecting the Patriots to put up about 50 points in this slaughter game.

Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants

Chadam Takes: GIANTS (-13) over Bengals

Wow, now that is a spread! I’m only laying the points because I really don’t believe in Palmer anymore. Is he even a top-12 quarterback in real life? Look at his stats for last year minus the insane Week 2 Cleveland game, and his line was 3730 yards, 20 TDs and 18 INTs. That’s Philip Rivers in 2007 (3152-21-15) or Rex Grossman in 2006 (3193-23-20). Food for thought.

Nick Takes: GIANTS (-13) over Bengals

I wonder how bad it feels to be a Bengals fan. They must be the saddest, disappointed and perplexed fans in the nation. Is that really Carson Palmer or is his sister filling in for him?

Arizona Cardinals at Washington Redskins

Chadam Takes: Cardinals (+3) over REDSKINS

This is my favorite pick of the week, and I’m debating hitting up a sperm bank this week to get some extra cash. I’m feeling another vintage Kurt Warner game — 392 yards for three TDs and a pick. Those of you who got him late in drafts are looking pretty smart right now — two thumbs pointed at this guy! (Ed. Note: Eighth round of a 16-round, 14-team draft with less than 10 QBs off the board isn’t exactly late, champ.)

Nick Takes: REDSKINS (-3) over Cardinals

I was looking for a reason to believe in Jason Campbell, and the Redskins delivered in a comeback win against the Saints. I question how the Cards will fair versus a playoff-caliber opponent.

Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers

Chadam Takes: 49ERS (-4) over Lions

What a strange game. I never really know what to do when two crappy teams play against each other. I think that San Francisco has a better chance of stopping Kitna & Co. than Detroit has of stopping Gore.

Nick Takes: Lions (+4) over 49ERS

The Lions might be the most talented perennial loser there is in the NFL. They have some sick receivers in “Megatron” (Calvin Johnson) and Roy Williams. Remember when Roy Williams admitted to stiffing pizza delivery guys? That was awesome. I’m picking the Lions just for that.

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Chadam Takes: SEAHAWKS (-9) over Rams

And I will never back the stupid Rams again. (Ed. Note: Chadam picked the Rams last week.) The only other way you could convince me to take Seattle and give nine points is if they were playing Notre Dame. If I set the over/under for sacks on Marc Bulger at seven, would you take the over? I would.

Nick Takes: Rams (+9) over Seahawks

Does anybody actually want to watch this game? I expect the Seahawks to win, but they don’t deserve to be favored by nine points over anyone. I’m sure Chadam won’t take the Rams three weeks in a row, so I’ll take them for the sake of being different than him. Chadam and I only differed on three picks last week, and I was right in all three cases.

New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos

Chadam Takes: BRONCOS (-5.5) over Saints

Wow, what an offense out there in Denver. Congratulations on making the fantasy playoffs, Cutler owners. I’ll be teasing the hell out of this game.

Nick Takes: BRONCOS (-5.5) over Saints

Is it considered jumping on the bandwagon if I’ve picked them to win their first two weeks? I don’t care, but I’m picking them until they prove me wrong. And will someone please tell Drew Brees to throw Shockey the ball! I reached for Shockey in my fantasy league, and he is not proving me correct so far. (Still, my fantasy team is 2-0.)

Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles

Chadam Takes: EAGLES (-3) over Steelers

This one is the game of the week, and I could go either way with this pick. Considering the minor questions surrounding Roethlisberger’s health, I’m siding with the home team in this one.

Nick Takes: EAGLES (-3) over Steelers

This game is probably the toughest to pick this week. I like both teams, but the stupid Steelers defied normal logic last week and didn’t kick a field goal late in the game that would have covered the spread. That bad karma is coming back to them this week with a loss to an in-state rival, the Eagles.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts

Chadam Takes: Jaguars (+5.5) over COLTS

With three of the Colt’s O linemen injured and their defense (sans Sanders) looking suddenly mediocre, this game doesn’t look as obvious as it might seem given Jacksonville’s struggles the first two weeks.

Nick Takes: COLTS (-5.5) over Jaguars

Looking over my picks, I like the home teams a lot this week. That’s precisely why I like the Colts to cover in this game. They also get Dallas Clark back, which I think will be a big boost. The Jags will have a hint of desperation in their play calling this week that will backfire on them.

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

Chadam Takes: RAVENS (-2.5) over Browns

While I think the Browns will bounce back soon, I’ll go against them for one more week. Would people be worried about Braylon Edwards if he hadn’t dropped that 53-yard TD pass in Week 1? I’m buying him. No worries.

Nick Takes: Browns (+2.5) over RAVENS

I don’t like the Browns, but I think they can beat the rookie-led Ravens in this one. The Browns desperately need for Braylon Edwards to break out of his slump in this game.

Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers

Chadam Takes: Cowboys (-3) over PACKERS

Too bad Rodgers can’t face the Lions every week, huh? This game is another favorite spread of mine. Dallas is for real.

Nick Takes: Cowboys (-3) over PACKERS

This one is going to be a good game to watch. I like the Aaron Rodgers and the Packers a lot, but so far, they have only beat winless teams. The Cowboys have looked unstoppable with Marion the Barbarian and Owens. I think the Cowboys get this one, but I’m guessing we’ll see a rematch of these two teams in January.

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers

Updated: Corrected home team and spread on Jets at Chargers. I won’t point fingers.

Chadam Takes: Jets (+8.5) over CHARGERS

I’m still on the Jets bandwagon, so I gotta take the points in this one. While Sproles is good, he’s not even close to a healthy L.T. The Chargers might win this one but definitely not by nine points.

Nick Takes: Jets (+8.5) over CHARGERS

I’ve been flip-flopping on this pick all week. I like the Chargers to win, but I don’t know what to expect from Brett Favre. His gunslinger attitude will either keep it close or blow it wide open. I’m going to say he does enough in the fourth quarter to keep it close.

Last Week:

Nick: 11-3-1
Chadam: 8-6-1

Current Standings after Week 2:

Chadam: 16-14-1
Nick: 19-11-1

Off-season Update: Quick hits at wide receiver, tight end and cornerback [NFL News]

Most of the moves made in the last several weeks have no immediate fantasy impact. Backups are still moving from team to team, but a few starters finally landed at wide receiver in the last couple of weeks.

FANTASY WATCH-WORTHY MOVES

The 49ers dropped Darrell Jackson after his disappointing 2007 and added Bryant Johnson. I would have liked to see Johnson end up in Buffalo where he might have been a compliment to Lee Evans, but he is daring and will take his chances in the new Mike Martz system.

He will get his chance to be a number 1 wide receiver. I don’t expect Isaac Bruce to make a Randy Moss-like revival out there, and Arnaz Battle can’t put up much of a fight.

Ben Utecht escaped the shadow of Dallas Clark to Cincinnati this week when the Colts decided not to match the Bengals offer. Utecht showed some ability with the Colts, and he will become a key target for Carson Palmer in 2008 especially if Ocho Cinco (Chad Johnson) keeps his act up and leaves.

D.J. Hackett finally found someone to answer his agent’s phone calls this offseason and signed with the Carolina Panthers. All the dynasty owners of Dwayne Jarrett just died inside.

Jarrett probably won’t hit the field for awhile now that Carolina has signed Muhsin Muhammad and Hackett unless this move scares him straight. Hackett and Muhammad should be able to open up the field for Steve Smith to make a comeback in production for 2008.

Kickers become fantasy-relevant for once outside of a close fantasy showdown now that Jason Elam has left the high altitude of Colorado to boot for the Falcons in 2008. It’s a tought loss for Denver since Elam won more games than any other single Bronco in 2007. While they search for a replacement, Elam will have to adjust to kicking in Southern humidity. I think he’ll be okay.

The DeAngelo Hall deal finally got done, so now he’s an overpaid Raider, too. The Raiders now have an even better secondary with Nnamdi Asomugha and Hall. Rumor was that they want to nickname the cornerback pair “Haul Ass-o” but Nnamdi won’t go for it.

YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH BACKUPS

Quinn Gray signed on to be the second/third quarterback for the Houston Texans. This signing puts the wise Sage Rosenfels in danger of being traded if an offer comes the Texans’ way, or they just want to be VERY secure at the QB position if Matt Schaub goes down again in 2008.

Bubba Franks signed on to the Jets but will likely just provide veteran leadership behind Chris Baker and endless Bubba jokes for the locker room.

NEWS THAT MIGHT INTRIGUE YOU

Brandon Marshall got so upset after last week’s episode of Lost that he put his fist through a TV. He might be out for up to four months.

Just let that be a lesson to you to always pick up your McDonald’s slop after a late night Big Mac binge. I’m not too concerned. He’ll probably be back in shape for training camp and be in line for a breakout season as long as there is no lasting nerve damage.

The Patriots have been taking a look at Josh Johnson, the little known quarterback loved by many scouts and experts as a potential sleeper quarterback of the future. The theory is that the Patriots might try to convert him to a wide receiver if they draft him in a later.

What? They aren’t going to get rid of that Tom Brady guy? Maybe Josh can work the camera until he becomes Brady’s favorite target. He has the potential to be a QB in the NFL if someone puts the time into working him into it.

Week 10 Injury Watch: Injuries that might provide some hot waiver wire picks this week

The games aren’t even over, but already, there have been several injuries that could go on to help your team. On the injury side…

Brian Griese, QB Chicago Bears

Brian Griese was knocked out for the Bears this week, so Rex Grossman may or may not be returning top his fluctuating position as one of the most inconsistent and sometimes just plain bad starting QBs in the league.

Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings

Two running backs had season-changing events in the Packers/Vikings game. Adrian Peterson–the star (only existent member) of the Vikings offense–went down with an injury to his knee. Watch the injury reports but now might not be a bad time to make sure Chester Taylor isn’t available on you wire if you are in need of a solid running back. Don’t expect fantastic “All Day” AP numbers from Taylor, but if you remember the guy, he was good for a few fantasy points years back.

LenDale White, RB Tennessee Titans

LenDale White took a hit that left him carry-less the rest of the game this Sunday against Jacksonville. Since he didn’t return, the injury may keep him out a few weeks–in which case, it might be a good idea to look at Chris Henry or Chris Brown. Of the two, Chris Brown probably has the greatest value since Henry will soon be leaving the Titans on a substance abuse suspension for some prescription medication he took (not roids).

Reggie Bush, RB New Orleans Saints

Reggie Bush only had an injury scare, but it is worth mentioning. He made it back without even missing the remainder of a quarter, but the injury was to his already-braced knee. If Bush was to miss practice time this week or need more attention to this knee because of the twisting today, keep your eye on the rest of the Saints running back core like Pierre Thomas or Aaron Stecker. Thomas has not been as major a part of the offense as some predicted when Deuce McAllister was knocked out for the season but would still have a shot without Bush.

Damon Huard, QB Kansas City Chiefs

Damon Huard had to leave the game, and, as is the trend in the NFL these days, Brodie Croyle may have stolen Huard’s starting job by playing reasonably well to finish the game. With a better running game–meaning getting Larry Johnson back from injury since Priest Holmes didn’t have much of a prayer this week–Croyle could be an effective starter for the Chiefs. Brodie Croyle had the hype coming into the season but was unable to take the starting job from Huard that many thought he deserved.

Marvin Harrison, WR Indianapolis Colts

Marvin Harrison will remain out this week for the Colts tonight. His injury must be more serious than first expected and/or the Colts are letting him get as much rest as he needs since they still have this guy named Peyton Manning who can throw to anyone. The receiving core is currently a little light with Anthony Gonzalez also sidelined with an injury to his hand he suffered last week, but Aaron Moorehead should fill in again and be a nice target behind Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark for Manning. (Update: Scratch that. Dallas Clark will be out with a concussion this week.)

Marshawn Lynch, RB Buffalo Bills

As the other rookie running back in the NFL that deserves attention, Marshawn Lynch has been one of the more consistent options in the Buffalo offense.  Late in the game this week, he went out with an ankle injury.  It isn’t being portrayed as serious, but if you are in a league with few other options, Anthony Thomas would be the main man to replace Lynch if he missed time.

On another note, some players DO return from injuries within the same season it seems. Steven Jackson came back last week just to go down again, but it looks like the Jax has come back to the Rams to stay.

Steven Jackson, RB St. Louis Rams

On a happier note, Steven Jackson finally returned to rush a TD and throw one as well. The Rams finally got their first victory. He should be fairly solid through the rest of the season, so hopefully, you stayed in the playoff chase if you help on to him this long.